Any attempt to wind up England’s volatile new captain Dylan Hartley in the Calcutta Cup clash will be a “waste of energy”, according to Scotland assistant coach Nathan Hines.
The hooker, who has served a total of 54 weeks of bans in his controversial career, will lead England out at BT Murrayfield late this afternoon to open the Eddie Jones era and has been a major talking point since the Australian coach handed him the captaincy.
Hines, who joined his former Clermont-Auvergne coach Vern Cotter in the Scotland coaching set-up after last year’s Six Nations, brushed off suggestions that testing the New Zealand-born forward’s temperament would have any part in the home team’s gameplan.
“Why would you want to wind him up? It’s a waste of energy,” said the 77-times capped former lock. “You’re far better to concentrate on your own game and make more of an effort on what you do rather than devote your attention to someone else.”
Opposite number Ross Ford, who will win his 95th Scotland cap today, agreed with that assessment. “I won’t wind him up. We have focused this week on what we can control,” he said. “If we do that well then it does create pressure on the opposite players as they are having to react.
“So we need to be proactive, do our things right, then it puts the pressure on them to react to us.
“I have come up against him [Hartley] a few times. He’s obviously a very abrasive player. He’s hard and he’s good in the set-piece.
“I don’t expect anything different, I expect him to be the same again.
“He has the captaincy now and I can’t see that changing the way he plays.
“He’s been picked because of his qualities in the set-piece and the way he gets about the park so I look forward to meeting him again.”
Hines was known as a feisty competitor in his day and added: “It [winding players up] probably still happens. Some players I played against could do that and still play well but some players can’t. The Australians were always quite good, and so were the South Africans. Victor [Matfield] was quite good… when big Bakkies [Botha] was next to him, who wouldn’t be?
“I don’t know whether it happens now.”
Scattered showers are forecast for today but may not arrive until after the game. Asked what kind of weather he would prefer, Hines replied: “It doesn’t matter what I prefer, it matters what we get. I’d prefer it to be dry because I’m pitchside, not up in the box, and don’t want to get wet. A dry game is a good game, but if it’s wet everyone will have to adapt.”
England flanker James Haskell, meanwhile, tried to dampen expectations and predicted a fierce battle in Edinburgh.
“It’s all been very positive so far, but it’s only been two weeks and we haven’t played a game so let’s not get too excited,” Haskell said.
“You can prepare and focus however you want, but you don’t know what course the game will take.
“We’re playing a very good Scotland side in a hostile environment and no doubt there will be bad weather and a difficult pitch.
“We’re prepared for that kind of battle and the most important thing is that we get the win to get the ball rolling.”
Saracens centre Duncan Taylor passed a fitness test on a minor back strain yesterday and will take his place as planned on the Scotland bench.