Hooker Fraser Brown insists that Scotland’s players will not give much thought to “1983 and all that” in the next couple of weeks, believing that it is of more interest to the media and supporters.
The fact that Brown and, indeed, the entire current squad were yet to be born when tries from Roy Laidlaw and Tom Smith helped the Scots to that 22-12 win which was to be their last at Twickenham until the present day, probably adds an unreal element to the painful 34-year hoodoo.
Brown wasn’t even born the last time Scotland avoided defeat at the imposing headquarters of English rugby, arriving in the world a couple of months after the 12-12 draw in 1989.
“I think it’s more important to the media and the fans,” said the 27-year-old Glasgow forward. “We don’t look at that. If you think about the weight of history and things like that it affects the way you approach the game and takes your focus away from what’s important, and that’s the details. It’s a great opportunity for us. There will be a lot of talk in the media about history and potential ramifications coming towards the end of the championship.
“Against Wales we put aside the disappointment of Paris and we enjoyed the night. As we get together this week we’ll shift our focus to England.”
The ’83 win and ’89 draw came in years that were followed by Grand Slams and, while that may be getting a bit carried away, there is a genuine sense in the wake of the brilliant 29-13 win over Wales at the weekend that this Scotland side have a great few years ahead of them – they have reached their highest world ranking of five on the back of recent wins.
“The performances you’ve seen in the past year have been building for a while,” said Brown. “I think you can see sometimes the skill we have on show. The difference now is maybe having the confidence and self belief to execute those skills. If we go behind like we did against Ireland or like Saturday it’s about having that confidence in the guys around you to know that you are always going to get an opportunity.
“It’s about having that level headedness to execute those opportunities. I think in years gone by we got a bit frantic and a bit rushed.”
A first Triple Crown for 27 years is now up for grabs but Twickenham can never be approached with anything other than trepidation. Brown accepts that to beat an England side looking to equal the record of 18 straight Test wins will require a significant step up on the performances which accounted for the Irish and Welsh on home soil.
“Yes, that’s probably true,” said Brown. “You can’t guess how the other team are going to play. You can only try to effect their game by the pressure you put on them. The longer you can do that throughout the 80 minutes the more chances you’ll have.
“England are unbeaten in a lot of games so you know you’re going to have to play well. They’re the form team in the world right now so you know you’re going to have to play well. We will have to play a lot better than we did against Wales and cut out some of the mistakes and tighten up in a few areas.”
In recent years Scotland have often approached Calcutta Cup matches with only pride and, perhaps occasionally, a sense of damage limitation on their minds but a week on Saturday will be different. As well as taking back international rugby’s oldest trophy for the first time since 2008 there is that Triple Crown and a possible gateway to the championship itself on the line. But Brown is keen to play all of that down. “I don’t know how much more incentive you need in a Calcutta Cup game,” he said, before conceding: “There will be a bit of added spice. Both sides are playing well. They might not have played vintage rugby in their first few games but they’ve done what they needed to do to win and that’s the measure of a very good side.
“It will be a huge game.”
A win at Twickenham would be another of Scottish rugby’s bogeys banished by Vern Cotter as he edges closer to departing the exit door. Brown said that delivering for the coaching staff was a factor, though not an overwhelming one.
“A wee bit, you want to put in a performance and win because the coaches have put in such hard work,” said the hooker.
“They look at these fixtures a month in advance, they prepare a game plan and work on it hard. For this group of players it’s an enormous thing to keep progressing and to keep progressing we need to be performing every week. We can’t allow fallow weeks where we sit back a bit or don’t perform.
“Yes, it’s for the coaches but for ourselves as well, to try to achieve something in a Scotland jersey.”