Tuesday 17 September 2019

Robshaw: We won't be rattled

Chris Robshaw during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park. Photo: Getty Images
Chris Robshaw during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park. Photo: Getty Images

Mick Cleary

Murrayfield holds no terrors for England. There was a time when dirty tricks such as slow-moving bagpipers in front of the team coach or a blasting PA system in the changing-room would distract, even derail the auld enemy.

David Sole's slow walk in 1990 presaged a shock Grand Slam, while Clive Woodward convened a crack-of-dawn press conference one Sunday in 2004 to voice his displeasure at what he saw as choreographed gamesmanship, even though England had won the previous day.

Chris Robshaw, the former England captain, has his own memories of these frolics from his first game as skipper here in 2012, but now the game is the only thing that matters for him and his team-mates.

"We have all experienced things, whatever it is, tricks or sideshows, trying to put you off your game," Robshaw said. "Whatever it is going to be, you just stay there as a group and are now prepared because you have been through them before. It brings you closer.

"It is you against everyone there and you are going into the heart of the fire. We have matured as a group, talked about what-if scenarios so that if they do arise you are ready for them mentally.

"There will be tension in the air at Murrayfield, the anthems are always passionate and the place tends to erupt at the first whistle. But it won't have the shock factor as we have been through it all before."

So much for the swirl of emotions and 'Braveheart' rhetoric in the build-up.

If anything, Scotland need to be on their mettle from the kick-off.

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They have started poorly in their first two games against Wales and France and even though they recouped a 10-point deficit against France they were feeble and ineffective against Warren Gatland's side and never recovered.

If England get off to a rattling opening then haunting memories of the 61-21 debacle at Twickenham a year ago will surely begin to take shape.

England are strong finishers. They have based their training on delivering under duress in the closing stages. Scotland need to be in the game as the final quarter looms. Scotland, of course, are well aware of previous frailties.

Their form away from Murrayfield is a concern, but on home soil they are on a record run of five successive Six Nations wins.

Gregor Townsend has backed his men to stand up to the power of England's game and not be affected by dizzy rushes or drifting focus.

The same XV who rallied so well against France for an accomplished victory in the end have been sent out again, Townsend putting his faith in fly-half Finn Russell, much as he was once supported through wobbly times in his own career. But this is an acid test for the Paris-bound Glasgow playmaker.

There is no doubt that the forward contest will shape events. In that regard, England look the stronger at the set-piece while Scotland have potential at the breakdown, where their two flankers, Hamish Watson and John Barclay, are scavengers as well as link men.

England know that they have to be clever as well as punishing at the breakdown, accurate when competing for the ball and without mercy on the clear-out.

The fixture has been a dirge in recent years. Scotland fans would care little if it were again, just as long as their first win over England in 10 years is recorded.

It will take more than a skirl of the pipes for that to come about. Scotland have the potential but England have the wherewithal to prevail.

(© The Daily Telegraph)

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