Six Nations – Reputations and Grand Slam hopes on the line as Scotland host England

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England will roll into Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon battling more than just the elements and 23 players in dark blue. The whole of Scotland will be eager to see them sent packing.

The visit of the auld enemy to Edinburgh in the Six Nations is the biggest date on the Scottish rugby calendar. Reputations have been forged, and Grand Slam hopes have been dashed, in a fixture that is 147 years old.

Scotland claimed the Calcutta Cup on three of the five occasions they hosted England in the championship between 2000 and 2008, but the trophy has remained in south-west London for the entire decade since. The noises from camp this week suggest that they are confident of putting that right this weekend, however.

“If you ask anybody in the country what the most important game they play is, it’s against England,” former Scotland captain Rory Lawson told ESPN this week. “If you ask the same of England I guarantee it’s not going to be Scotland.

“It encapsulates everything in Scotland and I’ve got no doubt the majority of the population will watch the game.

“There’s a lot of history, everyone knows that, that doesn’t necessarily come to the forefront of the players’ minds but at the same time they understand what it means to the people of Scotland to go out there and win against England.”

The team’s current skipper, John Barclay, certainly gave that impression this week as he insisted that Eddie Jones’ side — who have lost just one Six Nations match since the Australian took charge two years ago — are beatable.

He was not alone, either. Barclay was joined in talking up his side’s chances by his coach, Gregor Townsend, as well as teammates and past Scotland internationals.

Scotland fans will take all of the above with a lorry load of salt. Twelve months ago, under Vern Cotter, this team was billed as the one to end the 34-year wait for a win at Twickenham — they subsequently lost 61-21.

An encouraging summer and autumn under Townsend then helped Scotland emerge as Six Nations contenders, the visit of England a potential Grand Slam decider. Those hopes vanished on the opening day as Wales stormed to a 34-7 victory.

But those who head to Murrayfield in support of Townsend’s team are sure to play their part.

Chris Robshaw this week recounted a story from England’s last trip to Edinburgh in 2016 that gives an insight into what can be expected ahead of Saturday’s kick off.

The team’s bus had been given a designated time to arrive at the stadium, but as they did so they were held up behind a troop of bagpipe players. It is the sort of trick that the former England captain is well used to now.

“It delayed us a bit but we’d spoken about it,” he said. “You play these mind games. It’s a bit of fun here and there. But hopefully we’ve been there enough.”

Robshaw added: “It’s always a very passionate place to hear the anthem. The tension in the ground when we meet Princess Anne, I imagine, there’s always a lot going on around it – and it’s that excitement as well.

“As soon as the first whistle goes it will probably erupt as well. It’s just getting used to that. So once we get there, not having that shock factor.

“Like I said, we’ve been through it, we know what to expect, let’s jump in ourselves.”

England have certainly jumped in away from home under Jones. Since the Australian took charge his side have won 10 of the 11 Tests they’ve played on their travels.

That solitary defeat came in Dublin at the end of the last Six Nations but otherwise England have displayed a real appetite away from Twickenham over the last two years.

“Away from home, you have pockets of fans here and there and it brings you closer together as a unit,” Robshaw added. “It’s you against everyone there and you’re going right into the heart of the fire.”



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