Scotland hope to bog down England on Murrayfield mush
After defeats in their openers, both teams already up against it
Bad weather would be good news for Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scots need all the help they can get when they kick off against England in an already desperate Six Nations second round for both teams.
And the forecast might deliver. Rain is expected in the hours beforehand. Add that to the parasites which have already turned Murrayfield into mush (forcing the union to choose hybrid grass similar to Twickenham’s in time for next season), and Scotland could have a boggy setting to lay another ambush.
Scotland were the only team not to score a try last weekend, when everyone else bagged at least two.
“We were awful,” forwards coach Jonathan Humphreys said of the 28-6 loss to Ireland in Dublin. The lack of cutting edge cost captain Kelly Brown and British Lions lock Richie Gray places in the matchday 23, and inside centre Duncan Taylor was benched.
Making his test debut will be flanker Chris Fusaro, whom coach Scott Johnson said at the start of the season lacked the heft to be an international openside. But after losing the breakdown battle against Ireland, Johnson says Fusaro is the “ground feeder” they need.
Spared were Ross Ford, who lost five throw-ins and hooked a wobbly front-row between Ryan Grant and Moray Low.
“We don’t have many options, so let’s be fair,” Johnson says. “The players we have are the best this country has got. We have got to believe they will get better.”
The Scots are good at rebounding, especially against their oldest foe. They came off losses when they beat England at home in 2006 and 2008, and drew in 2010. In 2012, they lost 13-6 in the first match in charge for England’s Stuart Lancaster.
“We’re used to having disappointments but then bouncing back,” lock Jim Hamilton says. “We’re well capable of running out a huge performance on Saturday.”
Lancaster thought enough of his side’s effort in the 26-24 loss to France in Paris that he chose the same 15 players, a first in his tenure.
“We want the team to build on the display against France and use that defeat as motivation,” Lancaster says. “Having reviewed the game there were a lot more ups than downs. We have to trust the players to get the win this time.”
Lancaster was criticised for taking off scrum-half Danny Care, England’s best player, after an hour, but the coach said he won’t be changing the way he manages. Of more concern to him was another costly slow start, conceding 13 points to France in the first quarter. In the previous game, England conceded 17 to New Zealand. Both times, England fought back to hit the front, but sat on it and lost through brilliant backline raids.
“You put so much energy into getting yourself back in front that it knackers you out a bit,” captain Chris Robshaw says. “We can’t give teams so many points, we need to be the team that imposes ourselves. There can’t be any more lessons – we are in a championship. And no one wants to be called plucky losers.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont, Duncan Weir, Greig Laidlaw (captain); David Denton, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson, Jim Hamilton, Tim Swinson, Moray Low, Ross Ford, Ryan Grant. Reserves: Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson, Geoff Cross, Jonny Gray, Johnnie Beattie, Chris Cusiter, Duncan Taylor, Max Evans.
England: Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw (captain), Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Reserves: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Henry Thomas, Dave Attwood, Ben Morgan, Lee Dickson, Brad Barritt, Alex Goode.