Englands wave of white ready to cross swords with Scotland – The Guardian

Six Nations 2021
  • Eddie Jones’s side begin Six Nations defence at Twickenham
  • Scotland looking for first victory in London since 1983

England are set to unleash their “white wave” on Scotland in a historic Calcutta Cup clash with Ben Youngs insisting Eddie Jones’s side are primed to begin their Six Nations defence with a bang.

Scotland are seeking a first win at Twickenham since 1983 but will arrive with a spring in their step, having come within a whisker of victory in the 38-38 draw two years ago and with Gregor Townsend selecting the twin playmaker threat of Finn Russell and Cameron Redpath.

England clinched two trophies last autumn but their attack failed to click into gear for the most part, relying heavily on their suffocating defence instead. Indeed, in the comprehensive win against Ireland, England made 246 tackles to their opponents’ 73. Having faced England’s defensive wall – masterminded by John Mitchell, who was rewarded with a new contract this week – in training, Youngs compared it to being in a straitjacket and warned that England will not be letting up on the 150th anniversary of the first Calcutta Cup match.

“It gives us a huge amount of energy,” said Youngs. “The Ireland game recently and even the Ireland game in the previous Six Nations … [Conor] Murray and [Johnny] Sexton were having to kick when they didn’t want to and we forced them into things they didn’t want to do.

“When we are in sync and we have that synergy and are going after teams, it is a wave of white shirts so whenever a bloke has the ball he gets surrounded, it is great to be a part of. You want to play your role. It is a big strength of ours. John Mitchell has done an outstanding job in that area.

“I train against it a lot. We scrum-halves like to run with the ball, we do like to take people on and at times you feel you are in a straitjacket. To get better in defence you have to force it in training, to go into those areas, to challenge those guys and you get gobbled up at times.

“When the pack is going forward and rumbling, when our D is where it needs to be, it is a very tough team to break down. We massively respect Scotland and the way they play, with Russell in there who is a bag of tricks. We’ve done our homework on him, hopefully that is enough to try and keep him restrained a little bit.”

Jones’s side risk being undercooked, however, with four of their Saracens players having not played a competitive match in two months. In total, England’s starting XV have just 23 starts between them since the Autumn Nations Cup final win on 6 December with enforced rests, Covid cancellations and Saracens’ relegation all having an impact. But Youngs believes that England can reap the benefits of a rare opportunity to begin a Six Nations campaign at their freshest.

“I’m excited by it because traditionally we go into these tournaments having played a huge amount of domestic rugby and then two big European games,” he said.

“Often people talk about Ireland, the system they have and the guys coming into the tournament having had a little bit of game time but fully fresh. I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to see what we can do and where we’re going to be physically because of the fact that we have had a rest. We train at an intensity that is like in matches and we’d hope that we can carry that through. I’m excited to see us as an England team that is physically fresh and mentally fresh and hit the tournament running.”

Meanwhile the Scotland captain, Stuart Hogg, has urged his side to make history in the milestone match. “For us it is another opportunity to represent Scotland and another chance to create our own bit of history,” he said. “We feel we have prepared well and we are in a good place, but it counts for nothing unless we turn up. It is the 150th year of the game and a special occasion, but hopefully one where we can create a little bit of history.”