A brusing encounter - and why not a Scotland win!
February 24, 2006
Chris Paterson's kicking will be key for Scottish hopes against England © Getty Images
Growing up I always remember how important and passionate the Calcutta Cup clashes were. The highlight over the years had to be the famous Grand Slam win in 1990 which was a turning point in Scottish rugby history. I myself have mixed memories of my matches with England . They were always very passionate affairs but unfortunately in eleven matches, we only won one of them. Some of them were very close. I will never forget my home debut in 1994 at Murrayfield where we lost in the last minute to a disputed Jon Callard penalty which denied us a memorable win. The video replays confirmed that it was not a penalty at all, but in fact Rob Andrew's hand in the maul.
This weekend will be a very close encounter. There is a real edge to the game too; England are the World Champions and unbeaten so far in the championship, though not playing their best rugby yet, and Scotland are in great form and playing some of the best rugby they have played for a long time. I think that the result will be very close and Scotland has a good chance of winning.
In the past the Calcutta Cup matches have not been great games from a spectator's point of view. There were very few tries, and most games were settled by penalties. Then the game opened up, the laws changed and we thought that this would be to our advantage. England traditionally played ten man rugby with players like Deano (Dean Richards) taking the ball up. How wrong we were. The English adapted much better to the new laws, playing an expansive game to great effect and we have struggled to compete with them. The only exception was our famous win in 2000 at Murrayfield. England was going for the Grand Slam and we had not won a game. It was a messy battle and we ultimately played the conditions better and won through with great grit, determination and passion.
The crucial factor for Scotland on Saturday will be standing up to the England front row. England has a big pack and Scotland would be wise to play away from that. We have some good runners out wide, and Blair and Cusiter have to make sure that they keep things moving with quick taps. Wales tried this against England unsuccessfully, so we must learn from that and be sure to be more effective.
Scotland also needs to be competitive in the set pieces. England 's game plan seems to revolve around a direct approach with players like Tindall in the centre, and strike runners like Cohen and Cueto out wide. But they can open things, and with Charlie Hodgson pulling the strings there could be an expansive game from them too.
Whatever the result you can guarantee a very passionate support from the fans this weekend. The atmosphere at the France game was electric and winning was terrific for everyone. There has not been too much to cheer about both on and off the field in recent years, and the French win was probably the single best result in many years and has definitely brought back enthusiasm for the game in Scotland .
A lot of credit must be given to Frank Hadden for this. Under Matt Williams the team showed little character or passion. Frank has come in and galvanised the squad. He has adopted a very relaxed approach, following the Wales template from last year, and the players have responded to this, and the confidence has filtered back into the players.
I would of course love to be out there myself. Playing at Murrayfield as a player is one of the best experiences of your life. I keep in regular contact with many of the players in the squad. I was down at Murrayfield earlier in the week and from chatting with the players it is clear to see that there is a quiet confidence in the camp and they are all relishing the battle ahead. It will be a bruising encounter, but why not a Scotland win!
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