Edinburgh - Winning may not be everything in sport, but as
far as England coach Eddie Jones is concerned it sure beats being
Rugby union is much-given to bouts of soul-searching that
see its complicated rule book repeatedly tinkered with in a bid to provide a
better spectacle for fans.
But a lack of spectators is unlikely to be an issue when Six
Nations champions England face Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday for the latest
edition of rugby's foundation Test, a fixture first played in 1871.
The cliche of a Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield is that
this is always the one match where, roared on by a home crowd, the Scots can
throw a spanner in the works of an English juggernaut thanks to a combination
of passion and native wit.
Since Gregor Townsend, something of a mercurial playmaker in
his time as a Scotland international, took over as coach last year, the Scots
have indeed won plaudits for their attacking play while also enjoying some
notable wins over Australia.
No one has embodied their spirit of adventure more than Finn
Russell. But, like the child in the nursery rhyme, when the fly-half is good
"he's very, very good and when he's bad he's horrid".
Scotland suffered a 34-7 defeat by Wales in their tournament
opener and while they beat France 32-26 last time out, victory was only
achieved after Townsend took off the faltering Russell and moved Greig Laidlaw
from scrumhalf to flyhalf.
By contrast England, who've won 24 of their 25 Tests under
Jones since the Australian launched his Red Rose career with a 15-9 win at
Murrayfield in 2016, have enjoyed a pair of victories in the opening two
rounds, seeing off Italy 46-15 in Rome before edging Wales 12-6 at Twickenham.
"What we want to know about ourselves is that we can
tough it out in any situation," said Jones, who has recalled No 8 Nathan
Hughes in place of the injured Sam Simmonds in the only change to his starting
"Don't ask me about style because style is irrelevant.
Style is Ralph Lauren, or whatever brand you want it to be. Hugo Boss, Mont
Blanc - they come in and out. But resilience and toughness stays and that is
what we are trying to develop," added Jones, whose over-riding goal with
England is to win next year's World Cup in Japan.
Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup
final to England, underlined his point by adding: "Test match rugby is
about winning, it's not about entertainment...If you want to just entertain
people, you generally find you are not in the job too long."
Dylan Hartley has been captain for all but one of England's
Tests under Jones and Saturday will see the Northampton hooker become the
country's second-most capped player when he surpasses Jonny Wilkinson's mark of
"Dylan is not driven by personal milestones. He has
given the team leadership. He has accepted and understood the responsibility
more," Jones said.
As for Russell, Jones added: "He is a talented boy and
he showed against France that he can be world-class, but any 10 under pressure
has to find a way to play well."
Townsend, who has named an unchanged XV, said Russell's
place was never under threat.
"There was no doubt he would start (against
England)," Townsend said of the Glasgow stand-off.
The worry for Scotland, who came from behind to beat France,
is that recovering from a sluggish start against England last year, is
something else entirely particularly if Jones's men can, as they did in a
dominating 61-21 Calcutta Cup win at Twickenham last year, cut through an often
fragile midfield defence.
Townsend, learning from Jones's example perhaps, none too
subtly hinted that veteran referee Nigel Owens should be on the lookout for
England straying offside.
"It will be interesting to see whether they stay
onside," Townsend said, prompting Jones to reply: "If he (Townsend)
wants to talk about the referee, let him talk about that - I'm concentrating on
the game; that's all I'm worrying about."