Eddie Jones looks to break Scottish steel on his England debut
Eddie Jones will be looking to achieve what only one of England’s previous four head coaches managed to accomplish – an away victory over Scotland – when he starts his revival mission with his new team in their Six Nations opener at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Scotland might not have beaten England home or away since 2008, but they have only lost at their Edinburgh base to English sides led by Jones’ immediate predecessor, Stuart Lancaster, since the reign of Clive Woodward.
Martin Johnson, Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson all notably failed to notch victories against the Scots at Murrayfield as England head coaches.
Lancaster opened his spell in charge, initially as caretaker, with a 13-6 success away to Scotland in 2012, with a starting 15 featuring a trio of debutants – Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Phil Dowson – and with Chris Robshaw as captain on only his second international appearance.
Having picked up the reins in the wake of Lancaster’s failure to guide England to the knockout stages of their home World Cup last year, Jones has plumped for experience over youthful promise in his first team selection as England’s first overseas head coach, although the uncapped Northampton prop Paul Hill, Harlequins back-rower Jack Clifford and Bath centre Ollie Devoto are all in line for debuts off the bench.
That is an acknowledgement of the task facing an England side captained by the abrasive Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley.
Scotland suffered a whitewash in last year’s Six Nations but came within a controversial refereeing decision of making the last four in the World Cup, losing their Twickenham quarter-final against Australia 35-34 after Bernard Foley’s late penalty kick for the Wallabies.
WATCH: World Rugby previews Scotland v England in the 2016 Six Nations
“Playing at Murrayfield in front of a passionate Scottish crowd will be a real test for this team but one I know we can rise to,” said Jones.
“We’ve had a good preparation and we’ll go in there confident about playing well.”
Australian Jones secured his job as successor to Lancaster, who also guided England to a 20-0 win at Murrayfield in 2014, on the back of his outstanding World Cup campaign in charge of Japan, who achieved a stunning 34-32 win against South Africa, but he has a personal score to settle.
The one pool loss Jones’ inspired team suffered, 34-10 against Scotland in Gloucester, cost them a quarter-final place.
Scotland’s head coach, Vern Cotter, is also aiming to maintain the momentum of his squad’s impressive World Cup campaign.The native New Zealander has made only two changes to the starting 15 that took Australia to the brink in the quarter-final, Scarlets flanker John Barclay coming in for Blair Cowan on the blindside and Edinburgh’s Matt Scott replacing the injured Peter Horne at inside centre.
“England will want to dominate us but I don’t see why we shouldn’t take them on at their strong points,” said Cotter.
“We’re expecting them to be extremely motivated and physical, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Scotland are not short of motivation themselves.
They have won only one of their last 12 matches in the Six Nations and have not scored a try against England at Murrayfield since Simon Danielli claimed a consolation effort in a 35-15 loss to Woodward’s recently-crowned world champions in February 2004.