- RFUtv previews Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham
- Hear from Lancaster, Farrell, B. Youngs, Morgan, Cole and Goode
There is sense that Scotland raise their game when they face England and a quick glance at the stats from the last three years provides some substance to the notion.
Last season England defeated Scotland 13-6 at Murrayfield, while then Head Coach Andy Robinson’s side conceded an average of 27 points against Wales, Ireland and France.
In 2011, tournament winners England cut loose at Twickenham and racked up 59 points against Italy, beat France the following week but then sneaked past Scotland at home by just four points. To provide context, this was against a Scotland team which lost at home to fourth-placed Wales by 18 points.
Similarly, the previous year’s 15-all trudge in the Murrayfield mud was the same year Scotland lost 16-12 in Italy.
England and Scotland played the first ever international rugby match in 1871 and for Alex Goode, who has recovered from a shoulder injury to retain the No.15 shirt, the tradition of the occasion gets the juices flowing for both teams.
“The history behind it and everything about what the game means really does stir the emotions for both sides,” said the Saracens man. “But it’s not fair to say it just gets them up for it.”
Scrum half Ben Youngs keeps his analysis simple, but adds that the edge to the contest is why players want to play international rugby: “It’s because we’re English, they just do. Over the years it’s always been close for the Calcutta Cup and it always will be. It’s got that bit of edge to it, it’s a strong rivalry and when the opposition raises their game, you need to make sure you raise yours.”
Scotland have picked a big, physical pack and the England camp are united on the need to front up to the visitors’ size, especially with locks Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton engine room.
Photo: Getty Images
Tight head Dan Cole remembers each of his four previous Calcutta Cup matches as a “brawl” for the forwards, a feature only heighted by the temporary appointment of Dean Ryan to direct the pack.
“Every time I’ve played against Scotland it’s been a fair old brawl in the forwards, they’ve got big men who really want to scrummage and maul,” said the prop who has only missed one of England’s last 36 games.
His Leicester Tigers colleague Youngs, the man closest to the forwards, says the pack must improve on the intensity shown against New Zealand last time out: “Over the years New Zealand have been tremendous at the breakdown but I think we won that contest. I know the forwards are looking forward to kicking on. We want to be world leading at the breakdown and that starts with being physical against Scotland.”
People affiliated to Scotland, including interim Head Coach Scott Johnson and former Head Coach Jim Telfer, have been talking about England in the press in the build-up, with Johnson suggesting there is nothing better than spoiling the party at Twickenham and Telfer telling the Daily Mail England are “too arrogant, pretentious and condescending.”
But Backs Coach Andy Farrell, with the smile of a man who has tossed out the odd targeted barb during his playing career, brushed off the criticism as part of the mind games that come with international sport.
His full back Goode agrees: “You come into Six Nations and perhaps we’re the bad guys, we’re the pantomime villains and everyone wants to beat us. People say we’re arrogant but it’s part of the mind games.
Photo: Getty Images
Head Coach Stuart Lancaster has made it clear with his actions and words that England must guard against activities which drain emotional energy from the group, both internally and externally.
Discussing how the players react when they hear people outside the group start talking about them, No.8 Ben Morgan said: “To a certain extent you ignore it, but equally it’s a case of storing it and using that as a bit of extra fire. But from our side of things we don’t listen too much to what the opposition are saying.
Cole added: “It adds motivation in some regards but that’s more to individuals, we don’t stick it on the wall because there are bigger factors in the game to focus on. You don’t want anything to detract from the aim, which is to play the game and win it.”
Fly half Owen Farrell neatly summed up how the rivalry, emotional energy and physicality combine to create a contest that all connected to the game relish. “There’s a great rivalry there and I can see us getting stuck into each other – you wouldn’t have it any other way,” said the 21-year-old, delivered with a telling grin.