Six Nations: Hostile Twickenham awaits Scotland
THE RBS Six Nations Championship is often presented as a festival of sporting conviviality. Fierce competition on the pitch: friendship and camaraderie in the stands.
That may be the case at most grounds, but when it comes to Twickenham, things are a little bit different, according to Ruaridh Jackson. For the Scotland stand-off, who will win his 16th cap at the venue on Saturday, England’s home is less welcoming than the rest.
Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium is often cited as the venue with the most passionate home support, but the distinction there, Jackson explained, is that some affection for the opposition is mixed in with the passion. At Twickenham, there is merely coldness. “They are different atmospheres – Twickenham is definitely more hostile,” he said. “The Millennium Stadium is pretty intense, but the Welsh tend to just sing a lot. They sing, they’re passionate.
“There’s always a bit more extra tension against England. There’s a bit more… I wouldn’t say hate – but it’s a bit more edgy, shall we say? It’s certainly a more intense place to play. I don’t think that makes it more difficult, though.
“It’s just intense from the word go. Both teams are so desperate to win, both nations are so desperate to get one over the neighbours. It does add that extra intensity, and maybe a few fans get a bit heated at times. But we don’t take too much notice: we’re usually too focused on what we’re doing and trying to get the job done.”
The job that Jackson is trying to get done will be somewhat different on Saturday, as Greig Laidlaw, so often recently a rival for the No 10 jersey, is playing at No 9 instead. The two are adversaries at club level – Jackson playing for Glasgow, Laidlaw for Edinburgh – but they do have some experience of lining up together. “I actually came off the bench a couple of times, a few years ago now, before the World Cup, and played with him at nine then,” said Jackson. “He’s done a great job there for Edinburgh, and certainly in the 1872 Cup he was one of the better players. He’s a great player at nine or ten, and I’m looking forward to working with him for Scotland, because he’s got loads of talent.
“Everyone has their subtle differences, but every scrum-half will do a similar sort of job. We’re all buying into a system at the moment, and so far it’s working quite well. He’s a very intelligent player, first and foremost. It’s nice to work with someone like that, because it makes it a lot easier to fit in.”
The nature of the system which Scott Johnson is introducing to the national team is not readily apparent from the outside. In his public utterances at least, the interim coach appears laid-back and lighthearted, and perhaps disinclined to impose too rigid a style of play on the squad. But behind the scenes, Jackson says, the Australian imparts a wealth of knowledge. The fact that Johnson was a stand-off can only help when it comes to explaining how he wants his No 10 to play, although it is a fact that came as news to Jackson.
“I had no idea about that,” he said. “No, he’s been brilliant. Very honest: he tells us exactly what he wants – doesn’t leave any stone unturned. You never have any doubt. You know exactly what he needs you to do.
“Although he does joke around at times and like a laugh, he’s not just very honest – he’s very knowledgeable when it comes to technical ability. So he’s always passing on detailed information on what he wants, not just for the No 10, but everyone in every position. He’s got his philosophy and ideas. He’s trying to instil that, and so far I think we’re getting it.”
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