Allan Jacobsen hasn’t lost to England in two meetings at Murrayfield but it is an encounter that he watched from the sidelines that will fire him up for action tomorrow.
“What got me going again was coming to Murrayfield for the Calcutta Cup in 2006 as a supporter to see Scotland win 18-12 and the way our team tackled, and tackled, and tackled again that day has never left me.
“England kept running and running – and going nowhere.
“Genuinely, I was inspired.
“I came away thinking ‘as long as I’m playing rugby I want to play for Scotland against England’, and I’ve been lucky enough to do just that since then. I’m still hungry. I still want to do my best for the teams I play for. I don’t want to be beaten. That is what it is all about.”
And so the man known throughout rugby as “Chunk” sounds a rallying cry and while Twickenham encounters may have been less rewarding for the moment, at least he can draw on Calcutta Cup-winning experience to help lift colleagues to another famous victory on an afternoon where Scotland will try to double their win tally at the start of a Six Nations campaign having opened round one successfully only once previously, against France in 2006.
“This will be no different from every other game against England – ferocious, really physical and a great occasion to be involved in,” he says.
This time round, Jacobsen will be joined in the match-day squad by eight Edinburgh colleagues who have battled to the quarter-finals of the Heineken European Cup and the 33-year-old from East Lothian believes the level of intensity that has had to be reached at club level will play a part.
“There’s a few guys in the squad from Edinburgh and that is great. Hopefully the fact we have played these big Heineken Cup games which are arguably a step between league and internationals will put us in a better position, playing wise and intensity wise. To be honest Scotland versus England at Murrayfield is so big other stuff doesn’t matter. Everyone is ready for it no matter who you are or what you have been doing. Everybody will be at their best. You prepare for it the same as any other game. You should prepare for every game the same way never taking anyone lightly and never thinking anybody is better than anybody else.
“By being picked, people are showing they believe you to be the best. If you go into every game trying to do your job as well as you can that will be alright. Your job is to keep doing what you do well.”
With that in mind, Jacobsen has every confidence in the one new cap in Scotland’s line-up – Edinburgh winger Lee Jones.
“While at the World Cup in the Autumn, like everybody else, I kept in touch with what was going on at home. I knew it was Jonesy and the form he was in that the boys were mainly talking about. It happens a lot that somebody comes through to make a mark but even then it wasn’t until I came back and watched footage of matches that I realised just how exceptionally well he’d been doing in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League.
“Lee has earned the nod and has struck me as a real breath of fresh air, a running threat. For him to make a debut against England at Murrayfield is a dream and if he continues to do what he has been doing that’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
If Scotland are based heavily on an Edinburgh team hitting new heights in Europe than a third of England’s starting line-up is from the same club, Saracens. One player with experience of facing them is Gloucester flanker Alasdair Strokosch, although he believes it is a mixed blessing.
“Saracens have a very structured game and it not hard to figure out what they do but they do it very well and make it difficult to deal with. “We are expecting something similar.”
Strokosch is also wary of a backlash from England after they were perceived to have under-performed at the World Cup, saying: “They are going to come out with points to prove as we are. But the World Cup is in the past and this is a fresh start, a great opportunity.” A key figure for Scotland, according to Strokosch, could be slimline Gloucester colleague, Jim Hamilton – a former Edinburgh player.
Since the World Cup, Hamilton has shed almost 9lb and, promising that Murrayfield fans will see a new look second row, Strokosch says: “Jim’s workrate has been incredible and for such a big man (he is still more than 19st) he covers an incredible amount of distance. As a player Jim is on fire at the moment.”
Equally striking promises to be the pace of the Scottish back three which will hopefully produce a first Scottish try in the Edinburgh fixture since Simon Danielli crossed in 2004.
Intriguingly, coach Andy Robinson may have prepared the groundwork by accusing some English players of “arrogance” and, not to be under-estimated, is the inside knowledge possessed by that proud son of Somerset.
What may be relevant though is the extent to which Robinson has sought to provoke English introspection and puncture any self-assurance on their part that has often appeared to leave the opposition with something akin to an inferiority complex.
Not that the likes of Allan Jacobsen in particular need bow to anyone but it is an interesting mind-game theory doing the rounds on behalf of the cerebral Robinson and on the smallest of margins is tomorrow’s contest likely to turn.
ENGLAND are a complete unknown quantity. Well, sort of. Interim coach Stuart Lancaster is a former Scotland age-group and student cap while, in his backroom team is Peter Walton, an ex-Five Nations stalwart with Scotland.
Three new caps figure in Lancaster’s first selection and a string of others are finding their way with the coach already facing criticism for an iron fist approach to discipline.
KEY PLAYER: Chris Robshaw faces the task as captain of asking his team for a performance without knowing what he is getting into at Six Nations level; his only previous international experience came against Argentina.
FRANCE have a new coach of proven ability in Philippe St Andre who has made five changes from the side which lost in the World Cup final. Home matches against Italy, Ireland and England will prove extra opportunity to make an impact and there is a familiar hand on the tiller in captain Thierry Dusautoir. Look for a much more stable side than the one which played in New Zealand.
KEY PLAYER: Aurélien Rougerie is the old head in the back-line with the added responsibility of helping to settle exciting new centre prospect and Clermont club-mate Wesley Fofana.
IRELAND have to live without the talismanic Brian O’Driscoll due to shoulder surgery but can still call upon another Lions captain, Paul O’Connell, to lead the side. However, there is criticism flying around that coach Declan Kidney has been too conservative and even if Ronan O’Gara misses out to Jonny Sexton for the stand off role, most of his side have been around for years. Dad’s Army or a settled unit?
KEY MAN: Keith Earls was a surprise choice for the 2009 Lions and has still to live up to star potential. This could be his year.
ITALY have lured Frenchman Jacques Brunel from Perpignan as coach to replace Nick Mallett and he has retained only one back, Andrea Masi, from Italy’s last match. Brunel has been careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater though and many of the old, experienced pack are still there.
KEY PLAYER: How Kris Burton is able to use possession generated by forwards such as Parisse, Castrogiovanni, Zanni and Lo Cicero will be crucial.
WALES Coach Warren Gatland hasn’t had his problems to seek with hooker Matthew Rees the latest to join a lengthy injury list. However, write the surprise World Cup semi-finals off at your peril, as they have a habit under Gatland of finding that extra yard especially if backs Jamie Roberts and Rhys Priestland can play a full part.
KEY MAN: George North is big, powerful and with all the confidence of youth. Still only 19 he has the capacity to make fans forget the retiral of fellow winger Shane Williams.