AS A man renowned for his unswerving faith it is hardly surprising Euan Murray is convinced Scotland can end a Twickenham curse that has spanned the last three decades.
Even with the all the evidence ranged against him, the tighthead is firm in his conviction that what will amount to an experimental Scottish team can open its RBS Six Nations account by upsetting England’s Cox’s Orange Pippin cart.
“Of course we believe,” Murray insisted. “There’s no point in pulling on the shirt and playing for your country if you don’t believe you are going to win.”
Thirty years have passed since the Scots left London with anything more than bruises and a few plaudits, 30 long years since Tom Smith picked Steve Bainbridge’s pocket to seal a remarkable 22-12 victory.
It was a result that, but for Kiwi referee Tom Doocey, would surely have been even more emphatic and a result that, in March 1983, while not an everyday occurrence, would certainly have been expected to be repeated at some stage since.
Yet Murray, who is enjoying a solid end to his disrupted season in the Aviva Premiership with the Warriors of Worcester, is more concerned with the present than he is ancient history.
He maintains his conviction has a solid basis. “That belief is based in the knowledge we are good players and we have got it in us.
“We have beaten them at home, on our own ground and our aim is to go and beat them on theirs.
“We were really disappointed with our results in the last Six Nations. The Six Nations is such a hard tournament because all the games are really close and you can win or lose by a very small margin.
“We lost all our games last year and we were bitterly disappointed with that. It’s back to the drawing board so we’ll come out and give our all.”
That drawing board has been erected by new interim head coach Scott Johnson, who has called former England No 8 Dean Ryan from his TV analysis booth and back into the firing line as caretaker forwards coach.
Not that he had much choice but Johnson has also cast his net farther and wider than his predecessor Andy Robinson and has changed the balance of his training squad, 19 of whom come from Glasgow, only seven from Edinburgh and nine from outside Scotland.
He has also opted to pick 19 players who have less than a year of Test match experience, ten of whom have none at all. Step forward Ryan Wilson, Chris Fusaro, Sean Kennedy, Pat MacArthur, Sean Maitland, Peter Murchie, Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne and Grant Gilchrist – your time has come.
Murray added: “I think it will be good for the squad. It puts a lot more competition in there. There are players the coaches will have seen over the past few years, they will be aware of these players and what they can do and this will be a good opportunity to also see what the new guys can do. The boys are really looking forward to the next stage. I am excited about the new coaching set-up. Obviously I was sad that Andy Robinson stepped down. I think everyone was a bit surprised but these things happen.
“He’s one of the best coaches I have worked with, his attention to detail is excellent, he knows the game inside out and he’s good at giving players goals and telling them what he wants from them. I enjoyed working with him.”
Murray claims he has also been impressed by Johnson, who was introduced to the set-up by Robinson for the summer tour which brought three Test victories over an under-strength Australia, Fiji and Samoa.
“Scott is also one of the best coaches I have worked with – and I promise I don’t just say that about everyone. He brought a lot of new ideas to the squad in the summer and I am looking forward to the next chapter.
“I don’t know what to expect from him. We’ll find out in the next few weeks.
“We have got a couple of weeks in the build up to the England game and all will be revealed at Twickenham.”
Where, lest anyone forget, Scotland have not won in their last 14 attempts. Finlay Calder’s Grand Slam champions-in-the-making were the last side to go there and avoid defeat, a 12-12 draw in 1989.
In the last decade, though, there have been some real thumpings. Five of the last eight trips have ended with the concession of 40-plus points, which makes their last visit, in 2011 when Robinson’s men were only 19-16 down with a couple of minutes remaining, something of a moral victory.
Much water has passed under the proverbial bridge since then, both north and south of the border, where Stuart Lancaster has done his best to make English rugby respectable again after the gauche excesses of the previous Rugby World Cup.
He started that process at Murrayfield last year where, in his first match in charge, he inspired a passionate and sufficiently accurate performance to secure an away win and the promise of more to come.
Could Scotland follow their neighbours’ example? Murray is less keen to extol his faith when it involves praising the opposition.
“England did really well last year. Will it happen to us? You never really know what will happen.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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