Scotland are set to feed off “creative tension” when looking to bounce back from an opening day Six Nations defeat when confronting England at Murrayfield tomorrow.
Hooker Scott Lawson, expected to come off the bench at some stage for a fourth outing against England, is well placed to take the pulse of the Scottish dressing-room after being drafted in to understudy Ross Ford in the wake of that 6-28 Dublin hammering.
“I was certainly aware of a little bit of extra edge,” said Lawson, 31, who will be entering a ninth year of international rugby, having been capped at least once a season since breaking through in 2005.
He added: “Creative tension is something you want.
“The players were very disappointed, obviously, after putting so much work into the build up for the championship then seeing it come undone.
“It wasn’t all bad. Far from it. But there has been a feeling that everybody is trying to make each other more accountable. Even uncomfortable.
“All coaches want that pressure, that tension. They want that aggro between the boys, because when you go out on a Saturday you’ll be putting yourself under a bit of extra pressure.
“It has been tough this week, but the tension makes everyone better.”
The 39-times capped Lawson, who ousts Pat MacArthur from the bench after the Glasgow player appeared for only the last 13 minutes of the Dublin debacle, added: “Coaches have placed a bit of emphasis on getting a reaction.
“They’ve stressed we have still got to live in the moment, though, and not get carried away.
“I’m fortunate to have been involved in this fixture three times before, and that will help even if it will be a bit different this time.
“England didn’t get the result they wanted either when losing 26-24 in France – but that’s sport.
“Both teams are in the same boat and that will adds a little bit more competitiveness to the occasion.
“It was a bad feeling when we all pitched up to start preparing on Monday, but the way the Six Nations is structured you have to get on with it.
“You lick your wounds and get on with it. It’s only a six day turnaround, so there is no time to dwell on the past.
Those bench outings from 2010-12 have provided a taster and Lawson said: “Once again, we will be underdogs and England will come with their traditional dominant pack.
“Nothing changes in that respect and with the predicted conditions it is going to be decided up front.
“In Ireland, the team showed a lot of creativity in the middle third, but didn’t put points on the board.
“That will have to be rectified.
“Every international is special but there is something different about the Calcutta Cup match in my experience.”
“The physical confrontation doesn’t change whoever you are playing. Externally there is a different buzz.
“The match is always a sell-out and in the media and with the public the hype is greater.
“That does seep in a little bit.”
As one of only two members of the match-day squad playing in England – the other is Duncan Taylor of Saracens – Lawson is well placed to assess the individual talent in the England team, not that Edinburgh fans will need any reminding of how winger Jonny May darted and weaved from touchline to touchline for a try when Gloucester called for a Heineken European Cup tie.
“I’ve been around, that’s for sure,” admitted 32-year-old Lawson.
“After the 2007 World Cup, I headed south to Sale and on to Gloucester, London Irish and now the big Scots colony at Newcastle.
“Gradually, I’m making my way back north with a fair amount of insight on the England team.
“Jonny May was a youngster showing a lot of potential at Gloucester when I was there, and I’ve faced all their team at one time or another.”
Lawson’s last outing at Murrayfield was in the concluding Autumn Test against South Africa, so he hasn’t had to wait long for a recall – and to maybe prove a point?
“When you are out of the side you are always hoping to get back in.
“This time things are maybe a wee bit more in my favour the way the game has changed with alterations to the scrum laws.”
Criticism of the Scottish pack in Dublin included the fact they were under such pressure that hooking the ball proved difficult.
Conventional wisdom concerns the fact that the way front rows now have to engage favours smaller men like the 5ft 8in Lawson, who appeared born to the position, certainly long before he was turning out there for Edinburgh District youth teams out of the Biggar club. “I’ve always struck for the ball as a hooker and not looked to rely on shoving over the ball.
“That is a skill set that I have always tried to cultivate, so when the new guidelines came in a few months ago I never really found that to be an issue.
“Scrummaging has changed alright – and not just for hookers, but props too.
“Some very dominant props have struggled latterly and I’m aware of a couple of guys who have started to come into their own.
“Overall, I think the changes have led to a better contest at the scrum, and the fact the game is in a bit of a transition adds another aspect to the Calcutta Cup match.”
Certainly, Lawson is well regarded on Tyneside, with the Falcons web-site immediately heralding his call-up, saying: ‘Making 14 appearances this term, Lawson has been a cornerstone of the front-row throughout this campaign’.
Nor is he the only one knocking on the door for a starting role before this Championship is much older, and three changes, which see Chris Fusaro come in at open-side flanker for his first cap, Matt Scott recalled to centre and Tommy Seymour back on the wing, would be regarded by many as a minimum so far as the starting line-up is concerned.
What will give some hope is the ability of Fusaro to win ball on the ground, particularly as England seem to have omitted that type of player.
Earlier this week, former Scotland and Lions selector Iain Lawrie recalled how the combined side which won a 1997 series in South Africa relied heavily on Neil Back, and that is exactly the foraging role that Fusaro will be earmarked for.
A lot of expectation is being heaped on this debutant’s shoulders, but if the one-time Edinburgh University student can take it in his stride then maybe – just maybe – the odds can be upset.