Wednesday 22 November 2017

Mick Cleary: Scots have ‘nowhere to hide’ from lurking England

Mick Cleary

ENGLAND step out at Murrayfield this evening buoyed by the knowledge that they have already recorded a minor triumph in diluting the ‘Braveheart’ element that usually spurs a Scotland side into frenzied action against the auld enemy.

The ‘arrogant Englishman’ of stereotype has been discarded (or arrested), disarming Scotland in the process. Instead it is they who are under pressure to perform, with SRU president Ian McLauchlan, lambasting their results at the World Cup as “disgraceful” and declaring that “the boys need to wise up and start winning”.

The message has hit home, with coach Andy Robinson acknowledging that there is “nowhere to hide for us” and pledging that his players would “create chaos” to unsettle England.

“We are looking for Saturday to be a defining moment,” Robinson said. “We have this ‘unlucky losers’ tag. We have to take the next step. Against England, we can do that by playing quickly and creating mayhem.”

To judge by the weather forecast, if the Scots do not whip up a storm, then the elements will do it for them. All of which is unlikely to faze reconstituted England, tight-knit and bubbly as only new best friends can be.

They have been given licence to play without fear of recrimination in selection. They can be bold, they can be inventive, they can, if the weather does close in or the situation demands, be controlled and pragmatic, but what they cannot be is docile. There is a real sense here that Scotland need to deliver. It is six years since they won their opening fixture in the Six Nations.

England, then, have a great opportunity to prey on frayed nerves if Scotland fail to impose themselves. It is a neat role reversal of how the Calcutta Cup is usually played out, with haughty, well-backed England forced to resist the tartan upstarts. Instead it is Scotland who come into the game with built-up prospects and England who will be living off their wits.

So much depends on the pack being able to secure its own ball. That is usually taken more or less for granted with England. Yet there is nagging anxiety among England followers that Scotland will find some purchase in the forward exchanges, especially in the scrum. Tight-head Euan Murray has caused many a front row to wince, and if Alex Corbisiero and Dan Cole wilt, then England will be in trouble.

The one area in which England have an advantage is in their finishers. Chris Ashton’s strike rate of 15 tries in 18 Tests is of the highest order.

Much rests on the goal-kickers, with the temperament of the youngest player on the field, 20-year-old Owen Farrell, sure to come under scrutiny. England have no form as a reference point, and that makes them dangerous, not vulnerable. It might just be enough to bring a surprise victory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

SCOTLAND – R Lamont; L Jones, N De Luca, S Lamont, M Evans; D Parks, C Cusiter; A Jacobsen, R Ford (capt), E Murray; R Gray, J Hamilton; A Strokosch, R Rennie, D Denton. Reps: S Lawson, G Cross, A Kellock, J Barclay, M Blair, G Laidlaw, G Morrison.

ENGLAND – B Foden; C Ashton, B Barritt, O Farrell, D Strettle; C Hodgson, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, D Hartley, D Cole; M Botha, T Palmer; T Croft, C Robshaw (capt), P Dowson. Reps: R Webber, M Stevens, G Parling, B Morgan, L Dickson, J Turner- Hal, M Brown.

REF – G Clancy (Ireland).



Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport