Head coach Vern Cotter believes Triple Crown-chasing Scotland can travel to Twickenham with confidence after their superb 29-13 win over Wales but is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his team.
“England haven’t lost a game for a while so we would be very cautious about saying anything. We will just prepare as best we can for that game,” said Cotter. “It will be the Test record-equalling game for them so there is a lot to play for.”
It may not be a Triple Crown decider in London a week on Saturday as England will still have Ireland to face on the closing weekend but they will be chasing a back-to-back Grand Slam and, following their 36-15 win over Italy at Twickenham yesterday, Eddie Jones and his men know they can draw level with New Zealand’s record of 18 successive Test match wins if they retain the Calcutta Cup.
Scotland have received another injury blow with the loss for the rest of tournament of Edinburgh flanker John Hardie, who lasted less than half an hour against Wales after he was replaced by club-mate Hamish Watson following a knee injury.
It has now been confirmed that the knock will not heal in time for Hardie to face England, or Italy, next month and he joins skipper Greig Laidlaw and No.8 Josh Straus in being ruled out for the rest of the tournament.
A Scottish Rugby Union spokesman said: “An MRI scan confirmed the player damaged his medial collateral ligament and is expected to be out for several weeks. He will take no further part in the championship.”
Wing Tommy Seymour sustained a blow to the ribs while scoring Scotland’s first try but was fine to continue and is not considered a concern.
The focus now switches to a huge game at Twickenham, which sees Scotland going into the third leg of a Triple Crown, which is achieved by beating all three Home Nations, with a live chance for the first time in 21 years and hoping to win it for the first time since 1990, when the Grand Slam-winning side achieved the feat for a tenth time.
The small matter of beating England on their home patch for the first time since 1983 – before any of the current Scotland Six Nations squad were born – stands in their way but Cotter insisted that there is more to come from his side after they made it two wins out of three in the Championship against Wales at BT Murrayfield.
“I think these players can play better,” he said. “The first 40 [minutes] against Ireland was very good and the second 40 in this [Wales] game was better than the first. If we can do the full 80 then I think we will probably be getting somewhere. That will be the challenge.”
With Lions coach Warren Gatland watching from the stands, several Scots pressed their claims for a place on the plane to New Zealand this summer, including full-back Stuart Hogg, locks Richie and Jonny Gray, man-of-the-match Finn Russell and wing Seymour.
But Cotter added: “It was a team performance. I wasn’t looking at it from the Lions coaching perspective. I think Warren was at the game and a performance like that puts everyone in line, doesn’t it. Hopefully these boys can keep performing like that and put as much pressure on the selection panel as possible.”