Scotland captain has feet planted firmly on ground after earthquake

John Barclay
John Barclay
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Scotland captain John Barclay is perfectly prepared for this evening’s groundshaking encounter with powerhouses England at a packed BT Murrayfield.

A week ago the flanker was back in Wales, where he plays his club rugby with Scarlets, when the biggest earthquake to hit the UK for a decade struck, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale.

Barclay will be hoping the quake, which had its epicentre around Neath, is a portent that Scotland can make the Earth move today and record a first Calcutta Cup triumph for ten years, but admits it was an unsettling experience at the time.

“It was scary,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. My five-year-old ran through and said ‘it wasn’t me dad’. The whole house was shaking for about ten seconds.”

Barclay added with a smile: “I found out a lot about myself. I was standing in the doorway – every man for himself!

“I’ve survived the earthquake so I should be okay this weekend.”

Barclay will lead the Scots out late this afternoon for the biggest test he has faced since inheriting the captaincy just more than a year ago.

World No.2 side England are aiming for a 26th win in 27 Tests and start as favourites to continue their march towards a third successive title under coach Eddie Jones, while Scotland are hoping to make it two home wins in a row and establish a foothold in the race for the Six Nations championship.

Key to Scotland’s hopes will be the performance of stand-off Finn Russell, who has had a difficult first two games, but the skipper fully expects a response from the Glasgow playmaker today.

“Finn has had some games when he has not played as well as he could. He typically bounces back,” said Barclay.

“I have seen him not play his best game then bounce back and win man of the match. He did that in the Six Nations last year.

“Finn is one of the best stand-offs in the world in my opinion, based on how he played in the autumn games and summer tour.

“He maybe has not had his best first two games but he has done some good things. The scrutiny is always huge on the No. 10 and the nature of the beast is that the negatives are being pointed out more than the positives just now.

“He thrives on pressure. Finn is exactly that sort of character. He loves that element of the game. He has trained really well and is relishing this weekend. He is very relaxed but that should be not be mistaken for not taking the game seriously. He is disappointed as anyone if the team does not play well or if he does not play well.

“He is one of the guys on the laptops doing the most analysis. He’s that guy driving the team. His personality is not going to change. He is that guy driving the team. That makes 
him play the way he does.”

Jones has opted to talk Russell up rather than use his occasional tactic of having a pop at opposition team’s key men. Barclay hasn’t given much thought to whether this is a bit of reverse psychology but welcomed the wily Aussie’s ability to add spice to matchday build-ups.

“Honestly I don’t really pay a lot of attention to the media,” said the captain. “Eddie loves to play these games and the media love it too. It gives an interesting approach for you guys and I think it’s great for the game.

“It gives different headlines and people love reading it.

“But to be honest we don’t take much notice. I don’t even think there are newspapers in our hotel.

“Some guys are going to see it online if they want but certainly as captain it’s not something I’m paying attention to.”