Eddie Jones has been at the mind games, but it feels like he needn’t really bother. Scotland arrive at Twickenham for the beginning of their Six Nations Campaign on Saturday hoping to win at England’s rugby union HQ for the first time since 1983. So it’s not like the Scottish players need reminding that they rarely manage to get anything against their oldest of enemies.
“For Scotland it is the most important game of the year. They talk about it all the time,” the England coach told reporters this week. “But Scotland don’t have a monopoly on pride. Our players get an opportunity to play in this historic game and they are going to be ready for it.
“You listen to the Scottish and how much it means to them – it’s their biggest game of the year, their most important game, they are playing for trophies. That’s a huge expectation for them and maybe, with 15 minutes to go in the game, the expectation is going to get pretty heavy for them.”
The Calcutta Cup being held aloft by skippers in white has become a near-annual sight, so it’s not as though Scotland players need any extra chat about the pressure they will feel – even in an empty stadium – simply from representing the saltire against England. On their last visit to Twickenham in 2019 they turned in a phenomenal rear-guard display, overturning a 31-0 deficit to lead 38-31 late on before being pegged back to draw 38-38. Perhaps that is what Jones is thinking of when he talks about the expectation in the last 15 minutes, but there is a very different type of expectation on his own troops.
You see, England are evens favourites with Betfred to lift the Six Nations Championship for a second consecutive season. They are joint second-favourites to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup at 4/1. Right now, they are considered among rugby union’s elite, and so anything that is not a convincing win will be debated and scrutinised for weeks to come, especially against a Scotland side which has so little form in Calcutta Cup contests.
Maybe it was just Eddie’s way of reminding his players that there is always a need to be 100 per cent focused and that they have to play with pride every bit as much as the Scots, but Jones’ words might prove to be all the motivation Scotland need to put in that extra 10 per cent in the big moments on Saturday.
England could well go into this one undercooked, with Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly having not made a single appearance between them for club or country since the Red Rose won the Autumn Nations Cup due to Saracens’ recent lack of fixtures.
And with Cameron Redpath set to make his Scotland debut against the country which called him up for multiple squads without handing him a cap, there will be personal scores to settle for the visitors too.
England, of course, are the big favourites. But Scotland need no added motivation – from Eddie Jones or anyone else – to end 38 years of Twickenham pain.