MIKE BROWN: Eddie Jones’ England rookies will be facing a hostile inferno at Murrayfield in their Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday – and I fear for their chances because it is an unknown for their young players
- This young England XV will never have experienced an atmosphere like Saturday
- It’s the first Six Nations game at Murrayfield with a full crowd for a full two years
- Conditions will be really hostile and the Edinburgh stadium will be an inferno
- My heart says England will win their Six Nations opener – my head says Scotland
This young England team will have never experienced anything like what’s going to hit them at Murrayfield on Saturday. It’s Edinburgh’s first Six Nations game with a full crowd for two years so it’s going to be incredibly hostile. The place is an inferno.
You sink or swim in those atmospheres. It’s the first time guys like Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward have experienced it and that could work against them. My head is saying Scotland will come out on top — but I hope they don’t.
As soon as you arrive at the stadium on the team bus, you know the crowd hate you. It’s electric. I used to love it. On the bus journey in you have to drive around the stadium concourse behind these slow, marching bagpipers. It takes forever. You look out the window and see people hurling you abuse. Kids, grandparents, anyone.
Scotland will look to rough England up like Ryan Wilson did in 2018 when Scotland won 25-13
Marcus Smith (left) and Freddie Steward (right) will never have experienced a pressure cooker like Murrayfield
There’s no point trying to block it out because it will catch up with you later in the day. You’ve got to embrace it. Then you get off the bus and all these kilted-up bagpipers get in the way while you’re trying to get to your bags. It’s almost as if they’re doing it on purpose.
For Scotland, it’s their biggest game of the year. They won’t admit it but it is. They come flying out the blocks and if you don’t start well, it’s a hell of a long 80 minutes. Any mistake you make, they’re on to you.
The crowd are off their seats and the energy and intimidation lifts. If you don’t feed off it, it becomes unbearable, suffocating and you start to make errors. It grows and grows and suddenly you’re dead meat.
Eddie Jones will be desperate for Courtney Lawes to be fit because you need all your experience for days like this
It’s such an unknown for England’s young players and that could be their undoing. Eddie Jones will be desperate for Courtney Lawes to be fit because you need all your experience for days like this.
Scotland will want to get into Smith and rough him up because he’s a key player. They did the same to George Ford in 2018 before the match when Ryan Wilson pushed and shoved him in the tunnel. They’ll pick out the young guys in the England team and try to unsettle them. Win or lose, it’ll be a valuable learning experience.
Jones’ comments about going after Scotland are spot on. His players will see the headlines on their phones and bank it. It might put a bit of doubt in the Scottish camp, too. He’ll be using that message from the first meeting.
That’ll be their tagline: go after them. If England are to win, they need to go after them early, silence the crowd and kill their confidence. We’ll have a decent idea of who is going to win within 15 minutes.
Star Scotland fly-half Finn Russell is a fantastic player and England need to control him to win
In 2018, we tried to feel our way into the game and it backfired badly. Finn Russell destroyed us. He was whipping passes everywhere and we were scrambling. He has got the box of tricks. You think you’ve got him and then he drops someone in with a disguised pass.
He’s got the long pass, short pass and a whole range of kicks. If the defence flies up, he’ll chip over the top. Then next time you’ll hesitate, so he’ll pick you off with a different pass. It’s so hard to read the guy and he puts doubt in your mind.
England need to dominate the set pieces, kick for territory and be ruthless in Scotland’s half because there won’t be many chances.
They aren’t going to go all the way to the World Cup without the odd slip-up. They will learn from a defeat or two in the next 18 months and be better for it.
There will be a load of scrutiny if they lose in Edinburgh but it wouldn’t be a total train crash. My heart says they’ll win, but my head says they won’t.
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