'It's going to be hostile... I'm sure I'm going to get plenty abuse'
England boss Eddie Jones has claimed he will happily accept being on the receiving end of plenty of verbal abuse at Murrayfield next weekend if it means his young players can get on with the business of winning their opening round Guinness Six Nations match versus Scotland. The Calcutta Cup match in Edinburgh has a reputation for generating a spicy atmosphere from the moment the England bus drives into the stadium on matchday.
England’s last visit two years ago resulted in an investigation after a member of Jones’ coaching staff was allegedly struck on the head by a beer bottle shortly after getting off the team bus while Scotland supporters were also reportedly seen making obscene hand gestures at the England squad.
The intimidation continued during the game with the Edinburgh crowd repeatedly booing England skipper Owen Farrell as he kicked at goal and the Six Nations away-day experience left Jones unimpressed in the aftermath. “We weren’t expecting beer bottles to be thrown. It’s a pretty good achievement, throwing beer bottles, you’ve got to be brave to throw a beer bottle,” he snarled following England’s 13-6 win.
The Scottish Rugby Union apologised to Richard Hill, the England team manager, at the time but cast doubt on whether the bottle had been thrown as footage suggested the bottle was blown rather than thrown.
England are now set for their first trip to Murrayfield since their last visit in February 2020 and Jones has claimed he is more than happy to be the focus for the home crowd’s ire and draw attention away from the young England players who haven’t before experienced the Test match atmosphere of playing Scotland away. “It’s going to be hostile but the good thing is they have got me there and I’m not very popular, so I am sure I am going to get plenty of the abuse and I am happy to take that.
“They [the young England players] will love it. Why wouldn’t they? They get to play in the first game of the greatest championship, it’s for the Calcutta Cup, it means a lot so it is important that they understand what it will be like and the players, guys like Tom (Curry) and our more experienced players, will share the experience with the younger guys and then we will make sure we prepare for the game.
“We know the first 20 minutes particularly is going to be fast because Scotland likes to play fast. They like to play quick lineouts, they like to do throws over the back, they like to do non-jumping lineouts, so the pace of the game is going to be quick and sometimes they try to get that pace in the game in the first 20 to throw you off rhythm.
“We have got a set mindset of how we want to play. We want to be aggressive when we have got the ball and we want to be aggressive when we haven’t got the ball and we want to take the rhythm and tempo out of their game and put rhythm and tempo into our game. So we are looking forward to that preparation.
“We are going up there to get them, we are going after them so they are going to have to be pretty good and they are good. We know they are a good team. They have got a bulk of their players that played for the Lions that was picked by Gregor (Townsend) and they reflected the standard of their play in the autumn.
“It’s a sizeable challenge and you put on top of that the extraordinary weather conditions you can have up there. It can be wet and cold and miserable and the field can be very slippery and slidey. We played that game (in 2020) under hurricane-type conditions and we had to battle hard.
“We had just come off a poor first game (defeat to France), so we had a little bit of pressure on us and we responded nicely with a really good win. We know what it takes to get up there. A lot of it is about the mindset you approach the game with. You have got to start the game well, get into the game and go after them.”
This will be Jones’ seventh Six Nations campaign as the England boss and the ex-Wallabies coach believes the tournament is far superior to its southern hemisphere rival, the Rugby Championship. “It says behind us ‘Rugby’s Greatest Championship’ and I think it is now by a country mile,” said the coach, referencing a logo behind him while speaking at the 2022 edition’s media launch.
“This will be my seventh tournament and to see the growth of rugby here, the results in autumn were reflective of the quality of the rugby teams up here. This Six Nations we have got France who are red-hot favourites, we have got Ireland who is doing well, Wales won the previous championship, Scotland had the bulk of the Lions players which were picked by Gregor and they showed the benefits of that in the autumn and you have got Italy reinvigorated under Kieran Crowley who is a fantastic coach and has a track record with teams like Italy of improving them considerably.
“We saw a little bit of that when they played against the All Blacks and made such a tough game, particularly the first half. This is an extraordinarily good competition and we feel privileged to be part of it. We have got a very young team but a very good team and a team that is only going to get better each game they play. This is the first of four campaigns before the World Cup which is our ultimate goal.”
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