Clearly, when Voltaire said that “we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation” he had never heard of deep fried pizza, but this idea has always marked the Scottish approach to international rugby and seems to have struck a chord with Andy Robinson. Of course we are always quietly hopeful, but opposition teams are always talked up and we never approach a game believing we are entitled to win. We are nothing if not civilised. Robinson has chosen to contrast this with England’s “arrogance”, citing their lack of respect for the opposition and lack of humility in victory.
The problem with this is that the England team heading to Murrayfield on 4th February will not be the midget-bothering side of the World Cup. There has been much public soul searching south of the border since Manu Tuilagi was caught jumping from a harbour ferry and the Twiki-leaks furoré has not helped. Tuilagi has been recalled to the side, as has the Altitude Bar’s Chris Ashton but the team that plays against Scotland will look and play a very different game to the one that beat us at Eden Park four months ago.
Interim England coach Stuart Lancaster has talked of instilling “working class values” in the squad and of reminding them of the “pride” and “honour” that comes from pulling on the shirt of your national team. If Lancaster’s claims are true, then Scotland may face an inexperienced England side, but one that is hungry simply to win the match rather than being concerned with the financial rewards that might bring.
Even Brian Moore, a man with less humility than the entire cast of Made in Chelsea, is talking down England’s chances against Scotland whilst in the same breath accusing Andy Robinson of being an “Alex Salmond wannabe” (plus ça change eh).
Added to his new found humility, England also appear to have found a suitable replacement for Johnny Wilkinson in kicking terms. Owen Farrell has already scored 213 points for Saracens this season and can play at either fly-half or centre. Given his inexperience at international level the talk is of him starting at centre, but Scotland cannot afford to give penalties away in kickable positions with such a precocious talent on the field, especially in the absence of Mossy’s reliable boot.
Of course whether there is any substance to the rhetoric coming from the England camp remains to be seen. After all this is the Union that refers to its 1st team as the “Elite” whilst Scotland’s is simply the “squad”, Wales the “senior squad” and Ireland are “Ireland”.
Even in amongst England’s back to basics approach there are signs that the problems of old still exists. Scrum half Danny Care went on Twitter at the end of 2011 to say that “2012 is hopefully going to be a massive year… Earn respect. Earn the shirt. Set the example. #makeitcount” before being arrested for drink driving on New Year’s Eve. Care was dropped from the squad.
The only member of the England camp to respond to Robinson’s “arrogance” comments was Delon Armitage. Dropped to the Saxon’s squad, but still in contention for the “Elite” squad, Armitage rejected Robinson’s reasons for citing him for a dangerous tackle on Chris Paterson in the World Cup and spoke of his desire to regain his England shirt. After appearing for the Saxon’s this weekend Armitage was arrested on suspicion of assault following an altercation in a Torquay nightclub. There is no news as to whether any midgets were harmed in the incident.
Lancaster’s problems do not stop there. As recently as December, Chris Ashton received a four week ban after being cited for pulling Alesana Tuilagi’s (Manu’s brother) hair and out of favour at Saints will come into the 6 Nations having barely played a match. In Leicester’s recent drubbing by Ulster, Dan Cole was yellow carded for dissent for talking back to Romain Poite, a habit which seems to have crept in to the England squad in recent years which Lancaster will be keen to stamp out.
If Robinson is relying on an arrogant England team pitching up to Murrayfield expecting to win, then he is sadly mistaken. Whether or not England have the experience and discipline to win is another matter altogether.