Stuart McInally is dubbed “Rambo” by pretty much everyone and on the face of it the Scots may need to adopt John Rambo’s guerilla tactics to beat England next Saturday.
The Scots have not won a Calcutta Cup encounter for a decade and the last time the two teams met England had the bonus point banked less than three minutes into the second half of a horribly one-sided game.
For all that, McInally insists that Scotland will go into the match with some confidence after victory over France. They were confident going into the opener in Cardiff too and that didn’t end well, lending weight to Eddie Jones’ comment that the Scots can’t handle the heat when expectations rise.
“They are one of the best teams in the world, if not the best team,” says Scotland’s first-choice hooker on Saturday’s opposition. “We will have to raise our game. We improved from the Wales game to the France game and now there are other areas where we will sit down and have a good review of the France game when everyone is back in camp. We will chat a lot about it and work out how we are going to approach beating England.”
Responding to questions about last year’s 61-21 drubbing, McInally added: “It is definitely in the back of the mind, you cannot ignore that game, pretend it did not happen.
“We will look at it and areas where we need to sharpen up from that game. Obviously it is the last time we have played them but they have played a number of games since then so we will look at a lot of different games. That is still at the back of our minds and we want to right a few wrongs from that game, especially since we are back at Murrayfield.
“I wasn’t actually playing that game so not as involved as I would like. The tries conceded, it was 50-odd points, it is never nice. We went into that game with high expectations, somewhat similar to the Wales game. We went in expecting to do really well and then we didn’t.”
Scotland have conceded early tries in both of their opening two Six Nations matches and if they do the same on Saturday you get the feeling this England side are good enough and confident enough to fill their boots.
After a harum scarum start in Cardiff the Scots went back to basics against France, reverting to some one-out rugby, especially just after the break, but holding on to the ball for great swathes of the game, frustrating the French and milking penalties when they could. It wasn’t always pretty and it owed nothing to Gregor Townsend’s much-vaunted “fastest rugby” philosophy.
It proved effective against France but a repeat performance probably won’t be enough to beat an England team with as much physical firepower up front as Eddie Jones’ squad, who are also unlikely to fade in the final quarter like the French. At least one aspect of Scotland’s gameplan has gone better than anyone expected in both of the opening two games, as McInally recognises.
“I think the scrum has gone fairly well the first couple of weeks,” says the man in the middle of the melee. “I don’t know what people were expecting but I never thought we would struggle massively. We have some great props and great second rows. There is a lot of weight coming through there. It is not just about the front row, it is about the whole eight and we are in good shape, scrummaging quite well as the moment.
“We are taking confidence, especially from the French game where there were a few scrums where we could have been a bit more dominant if we had held our shape and held our feet a bit more. There were a few that went down just as we were going forward.
“We will take confidence from that but we are under no illusions, England are a level up again so we will need to be even better to go well against them.”
This England side have no fear of Scotland or of Murrayfield and why should they? They haven’t lost in Edinburgh since 2008 and not one single player in white from that day will be in England’s matchday 23 come Saturday, although the current forwards coach Steve Borthwick was in the second row.
“They have some big forwards and they expect them to run hard and get over the gain line,” says McInally. “They have been doing their work against Georgia and will be looking to work us hard in the scrum and the maul.
“Then you look at the game they played against us last year and they threw the ball around quite a lot with success there as well. They are a well-rounded team, one of the best in the world so we will need to be on top of our game.”