Sole backs Scots to shock England

FORMER Scotland captain David Sole has backed his countrymen to pull off a surprise win over England at Murrayfield on February 25.

Sole - the last man to captain Scotland to a Grand Slam back in 1990 - has been impressed with the progress shown by Scotland under the guidance of coach Frank Hadden, and he expects them to ruffle a few English feathers in round three of the RBS Six Nations Championship.

A win for England would edge them closer to a first Grand Slam since 2003, but the Scots are past masters at ruining England's plans.

In both 1990 and 2000 England travelled to Murrayfield as red-hot favourites to claim a Grand Slam, and both times they were denied by inspired performances by the home side. The 19-13 win in 2000 could not prevent England from winning the inaugural Six Nations title but Sole knows more than most about how to derail the English chariot after leading the fabled 13-7 win 16 years ago that handed the Scots a Grand Slam, Triple Crown, Calcutta Cup and Five Nations championship.

"If there's one team in the world the Scots will raise their game for it is England," Sole said. "The crowd will know the players have given everything in their opening two games and I'm sure they will get behind them.

"No-one can ask any more from the players than that they are prepared to die for the shirt, and in the last two games it's really looked that way. If they go into the England game with the same attitude there's a genuine chance of an upset."

The former Scotland and Lions prop, who captained his country in 25 of his 44 internationals, believes coach Hadden and captain Jason White have instilled a new sense of togetherness in the Scotland team. After beating France in their opening game, Scotland were unfortunate to have second-row Scott Murray sent off as they slipped to a 28-18 defeat against Wales on Sunday.

Sole was impressed with the way the Scots stuck together following Murray's 22nd minute dismissal.

"As far as I'm concerned, the Wales game provided more evidence that the win over France was not just a flash in the pan, and there is good reason for optimism going into the England game," Sole said.

"There's a growing sense of unity around the Scottish squad at the moment and the close ups of Jason White rallying the rest of the team were great to see.

"The Scottish players dug really deep and I thought they looked the stronger side at the end of the game, despite having played 60 minutes of the game with 14 players on the pitch.

"Scottish teams in the past would have given up the ghost, but this time they really dug deep and fully deserved the two tries they scored at the end."

While Sole accepts Murray probably deserved to be sent off after he lashed out with his boot following a late tackle from opposite man Ian Gough, the 43-year-old insists the disciplinary panel - who meet today - should show leniency to the experienced lock.

"Scott Murray's sending off was critical, and I thought it was the result of a bit of a cheap shot by Ian Gough," Sole said.

"Scott's reaction was instinctive rather than pre-meditated and I hope this is reflected in the ban he receives."

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