Scottish ambush awaits England
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: Scotland captain Stuart Hogg wants his side to follow their 2018 example by “turning over” arch-rivals England at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Scots produced one of their best performances of recent times when they beat England 25-13 to lift the Calcutta Cup in Edinburgh two years ago.
They followed that up by coming from 0-31 behind to force a 38-all draw at Twickenham in last year’s edition of Rugby Union’s oldest international fixture, a match fullback Hogg missed through injury.
Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell played a key role in both games but will be absent this weekend, having been sent into Test exile ahead of the side’s 19-12 loss to Ireland in their 2020 Six Nations opener in Dublin last weekend by coach Gregor Townsend after missing training following a late-night drinking session.
Nevertheless, Hogg insisted Scotland could still defeat England who, having lost to South Africa in last year’s World Cup Final in Japan, were beaten again, 24-17, by a resurgent France in Paris last Sunday.
“I’ve been involved in a few Calcutta Cup matches now and come out on the wrong end a few times,” Hogg told reporters at Murrayfield on Friday.
“But 2018 was definitely a highlight. Here’s hoping tomorrow we can emulate that.
“If we nail our detail in attack and defence we can turn over England and I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity,” added Hogg ahead of a match forecast to be played in wet and windy conditions.
“On our day we can beat anyone. You saw that with England here a couple of years ago.”
Hogg, who now plays his club rugby in England for Exeter, refused to be drawn into the pre-match barbs that have seen England coach Eddie Jones label Scotland “niggly opponents”, with Red Rose flank Lewis Ludlam forecasting a “war” in the Scottish capital.
“I think I’ve made it pretty clear I’ve got a lot of respect for England,” said Hogg. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play with a few of their boys on [British and Irish] Lions tours and they’re world-class.
“We want an opportunity to turn them over. I fully believe in our team, that we can do that.”
Scotland suffered a disappointing first-round exit at last year’s World Cup following pool defeats by Ireland and hosts Japan.
Yet they might well have won in Dublin last weekend but for several self-inflicted wounds, notably when new skipper Hogg dropped the ball with the try-line at his mercy.
“We really took it to Ireland in attack and fronted up in defence,” said Hogg. “We’re gutted with the fact that we could have potentially won that game last week.”
Hogg was adamant he wanted Scotland to stop being labelled as ‘plucky losers’, saying: “The tag that we’ve been given really hurts the players but we need to be in a position to win Test matches before that goes.
“Some boys are playing in this game for the first time but we’ve shown over the past couple of years that we’re more than capable of winning. We’re ready.”
But while aiming for a repeat of 2018, Hogg said there was no way Scotland could once more give England a huge early lead as happened at Twickenham and expect a share of the spoils.
“We can’t stand back and admire England for too long. They weren’t in a World Cup final for nothing.
“They are a world-class team and it’s going to take us to be at our best for the full 80 minutes to come away with the result we want. But we’re fully aware of that.”