Courtney Lawes insists England must prevent Finn Russell from leaving his imprint on Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown if they are to topple Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
Russell has retained his place in Gregor Townsend’s starting XV despite an inauspicious start to the NatWest 6 Nations, struggling against Wales and eventually being replaced by Greig Laidlaw at stand-off for the victory over France.
The Racing 92-bound playmaker is deadly when on song, leaving Lawes to call for him to be shackled by Eddie Jones’ side right from the start.
“Finn is a confidence player so if you let him get confidence early then he’s probably going to have a good game,” the Northampton forward said.
“Obviously most or 99 per cent of the games you play in you are going to target the nine and 10 just because they run the game for the opposition. Are we going to target him any more than any other 10? No, but we are going to target him.
“He is very good player, a quality player and we don’t want him to have a sniff at all.”
Meanwhile, Jonathan Joseph accepts that his outside centre duel with Ben Te’o means his England place is always shrouded in uncertainty.
Coach Jones will reveal today who is to partner Owen Farrell in midfield at BT Murrayfield.
Te’o’s powerful ball carrying was preferred for the rout of Italy in round one, but six days later Jones opted for the slicker footwork and defensive work of Joseph.
The decision at outside centre is the only outstanding selection issue for England and Joseph knows the requirements of the gameplan could work against him.
With the George Ford and Farrell axis emerging as one of England’s strengths under Jones, making the pair all but undroppable, outside centre offers the opportunity to adjust the tactical approach of the threequarters.
“The competition is always right up there and it’s been good with Ben. We both offer slightly different things, but it’s healthy,” Joseph said.
“We’re friends off the field but at the same time competing on it. It depends on each player, but I’m one who is never quite sure if he’s playing until the team has been named.
“Every player wants to play, that’s no secret. If Eddie has a reason why you might not be involved, you have to take that on board. It might be constructive criticism, it might be that he wants to look at another combination. You have to put your trust in him, he’s your coach and his word is final.”
Te’o made his first appearance after almost four months out with an ankle sprain against Italy and performed well. The former rugby league star insists he is more than a midfield battering ram, but is happy to perform that role. He said; “I’d like to say there’s a bit more to my game than carrying but let’s be real, that’s a strong part of my game. There’s no shying away from that. I do enjoy doing it,”