'When you're walking into the changing rooms you'll get whatever chat'
Max Malins insists England’s rookies are ready to thrive amid the hostility awaiting at Murrayfield after being braced for what to expect in the Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland.
Almost half of Eddie Jones’ 37-man training squad have never appeared in the Championship, while Malins and Jonny Hill made their debuts in the 2020 tournament that unfolded behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It means that an England side rebuilt after last year’s fifth-place finish will enter a dangerous opener with a large contingent of developing players who have yet to experience the intimidating atmospheres of Celtic strongholds such as Murrayfield.
Steps have been taken to equip them for what is coming and Malins insists projecting confidence from the moment they arrive at the ground will be critical.
“Last week a few blokes shared their experiences of travelling to away games and to Murrayfield in particular,” Malins told the PA news agency. “They spoke about how it’s a hostile crowd as soon as you get off the bus and that even when you’re on the bus you can feel it.
“When you’re walking into the changing rooms you’ll get whatever chat, so you have to be ready for that. It’s got to be water off a duck’s back.
“It’s important for those who haven’t played there to have an idea of what’s coming in those environments.
“Of course we want to focus on ourselves, but we don’t want to be overcome by the whole occasion of it.
“It’s important to get an idea of what we’re going into, not to freeze us up or create fear but to actually create excitement around the group.
“We want to set our stall out and our body language is going to prove that we’re ready for them as soon as we step off that bus.
“You don’t want to be overcome by the situation and everyone will react differently to it, but as a whole we’ll come together. We’ve created a united group here so we’ll stand together and walk in together.”
All but three of Malins’ 11 caps have been replacement appearances but his ability to perform at wing and full-back in a threequarter line that has been ravaged by injury and Covid makes him a valuable asset for the trip to Edinburgh.
The 25-year-old is eager to take on Scotland and even though the scale will be radically different, he can draw on his earliest experience of playing for Saracens at Gloucester in advance of running out in front of 67,144 at Murrayfield.
“Scotland is usually a tight game. Feisty as well. It’s always a battle so to play in this fixture would be incredible. I can’t wait if I get the chance,” he said.
“You don’t take any atmosphere personally. On the day I listen to it and sort of enjoy it. It’s why we like playing the game, these are the experiences you want.
“I remember playing at Gloucester in one of my first Premiership games. I was on the bench and as we went to warm up behind the dead ball area, people were ramming things into the hoardings and chucking beer. I was thinking ‘what’s going on here?’
“And then there’s The Shed… every high ball that goes up you hear it. It was a fascinating early insight into what it can be like playing away from home.
“There will always be noise, but as soon as you start thinking about external factors or pressures that’s when you don’t start thinking about your job.”
Malins is likely to feature in a back three alongside Jack Nowell and Freddie Steward and the trio know they will be working overtime to cut off the space in the backfield available to Scotland magician Finn Russell.
“Finn is a massive influence. His creative spark is second to none. He’s a very creative player and all of their momentum comes through him,” Malins said.
“He’s someone we have to look out for and hopefully we can pressurise him and make him go into his shell.
“You have to expect the unexpected with him, you don’t know what he’s going to do or when but as long as we’re alert, hopefully we can keep his box of tricks in their box.”
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