If you watch England under Eddie Jones, they start games quickly and they start tournaments well. It’s something they obviously put a lot of focus on and they deserve credit for that.
Scotland have made bad starts on their last two visits to Twickenham but when people say you’ve got to start quickly it can mean so many different things. A lot of it depends on whether you are kicking off or whether you are receiving. Can you put pressure on in that first five to ten minutes so you can control the flow of the game?
But equally, if you are under the cosh for that first ten minutes and you manage to hold back the storm, it flips the pressure on to the team that has been on top.
They’ve not got their rewards and they start to feel it a little bit.
Pace will be a big factor at Twickenham on Saturday and I think Scotland will come out and try to start quickly. There are a lot of Saracens guys in the England team who have not played an awful lot of rugby this year, and although they are world class players who’ll be conditioned to the hilt, there’s nothing quite like playing Test match rugby, particularly in the Six Nations.
If Scotland can make them realise they are in a Test match it might mean England will have to go to their bench earlier than they would have hoped.
Cam Redpath will make his Scotland debut at inside centre and he’s a good player who has been playing well for Bath. He’s got a great skill-set and he complements Finn Russell. He can be the second ball-player which will help take a bit of pressure away from Finn at stand-off.
If you have two receivers in there at 10 and 12 it means that if the pressure comes on 10 you can shift that point of attack a little bit further out and reduce a bit of the line speed from England’s defence.
England defend very aggressively, particularly when the ball is in the air, taking space away from the attacking side, and they do it exceptionally well in the midfield. This can suffocate attacks with only one playmaker. Having Cam outside Finn can help release pressure on him by shifting the point of attack to try and beat the blitz.
And you can also have Stuart Hogg who can jump in at first receiver down the short side, so straight away it’s harder for England to put pressure on one player to stop an attack if you’ve got two or three different playmakers to target.
Gregor Townsend is notorious for wanting his teams to be able to play with ball in hand, to be able to attack and stress opposing teams. He doesn’t want them to be one dimensional, he wants them to have the option to be able to play up and go through them or create space and have that ability to have a second receiver and put the ball out the backs and go wide.
It’s another weapon Scotland can use to try to move the point of attack.
With myself and Stuart McInally out with neck injuries it’s a brilliant opportunity for George Turner, who will start at hooker.
George is a very good player who’s been unlucky in terms of gametime. He’s very dynamic around the pitch, very aggressive, a good defender, a great ball carrier and poses a threat at the breakdown which all of our hookers do. He’s very physical and his set piece has gone from strength to strength.
Contrary to what everyone believes, we are not constantly butting heads with the rivals in our position. Stuart, George and I have a really good relationship and we all constantly push each other on and help each other because that’s the only way everyone gets better.
I chat to George a lot, our wives are good friends and we live about 10 minutes from each other. I’ll try and catch up with him today and drop him a message.
Obviously, I’m gutted to not be a part of it but it will be interesting to be on the outside looking in and to have the expectation of a fan.
Every year people seem to say, there’s a great core of a team there. There are some great players coming through in the Scotland team and there are some great players already established.
What we’ve been talking about in particular this year is that at some point you’ve got to stop talking about having great potential. You’ve got to go out there and perform and put together performances back to back and, if you have setbacks, just park them to one side and learn from them and improve again.
I’m excited because I think this is a great opportunity for Scotland to really progress and to demonstrate that the guys in this group are professional, they’re improving all the time and know what it takes to perform on the international stage in Test matches.