Calcutta Cup: Mike Blair responds to Eddie Jones’ comments

Scotland assistant coach says team are good enough and mentally strong enough to break a 36-year losing streak at Twickenham

Mike Blair
Mike Blair will take charge of Scotland's summer tour. Image: © Craig Watson -

SCOTLAND assistant coach Mike Blair has attempted to throw cold water on Eddie Jones’ pre-match hype ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.

The England head coach used the press conference after his team’s convincing victory over Italy on Saturday to discuss the painful experience of losing at Murrayfield last year on a tempestuous afternoon which featured Ryan Wilson and Owen Farrell scuffling in the tunnel before the match. Jones was also verbally abused and jostled on a train on his way back from the game.

“This is their game. This is the one game they get themselves up for,” said Jones. “They pulled our pants down badly last year so we have work to do to make sure we finish the game with our pants up.

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“We saw how they carried on last year after they beat us,” he added. “So, we might have short memories sometimes, but sometimes you have longer memories. We’ll rip into training and be at our absolute best next week, because we’re going to have to be to beat Scotland.

“[At Twickenham] you don’t get people telling you where to go, you don’t get people spitting on you, you don’t get people grabbing you round the head and telling you what you should do, so we’ll make sure the hostility is on the field. Every game against Scotland has extra on it, I think they have a healthy dislike of the English and we would certainly like to reciprocate the welcome we got up there last year. All I’ll say is that we’ll be ready for them.”

Blair appeared slightly bemused by Jones’ outburst, and when asked if Scotland might consider pinning up some of the Australian’s more outlandish quotes in the team room for motivational purposes, he quipped: “There’d be no room left on the wall!”

“It’s something that he does, he enjoys that relationship with the media, dropping a few quotes here and there, but that’s his decision to do that,” Blair added. “We can’t affect how Eddie Jones sees us behaving. The win we had last year was a good win. I don’t know what he is referring to about over-celebrating.”

When it was suggested that the video which appeared on social media in the days after the last match of several Scotland players in a bar – including a dishevelled looking Greig Laidlaw and Finn Russell – singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ might have got under Jones’ skin, Blair replied: “I don’t know if that is over-celebrating or just having a good time after winning a game.

“The guys were not too happy about losing the game this week so there was not that kind of stuff going on. When you win a game, you enjoy yourself. I am sure his England players would have enjoyed themselves after beating Ireland in Ireland, for example.”

Tackling the Twickenham hoodoo

Given Scotland’s poor away record in recent years, and the fact that they haven’t won at Twickenham since 1983, it is not surprising that Jones is keen to pile the pressure on this week. Question marks hang over this team as to whether they have the mental fortitude to get a result on the road against one of the big hitters in the Six Nations, but Blair says he has faith that the players will not turn into pussycats when they enter the lion’s den on this occasion.

“The passion is a big thing, but it’s defined in different ways,” he said. “Some might remember the stories of David Leslie when he was coach of the Scotland Under-21s and he’d lie on the ground and tell players to stand all over him to get themselves fired up for the game. There will be some players who enjoy that side of things and others for whom it takes just a click of the fingers because going out to play international rugby is enough in itself and they don’t need that extra motivation. So, we’re looking for the guys to click, to really hit the ground running.

“England have got a good record starting games, I think in the last eight games they’ve scored six times in the first two to three minutes, so it is really important for us to start well and get a foothold in the game.

“Twickenham is one of the hardest places in the world to go and win, the history of the fixture will show that. There have been games over the years where Scotland have really challenged England and had opportunities to win but haven’t been able to get it over the line and we feel with this group of players we will be able to get things right. We’ve got the personnel and the game to be able to do that. We feel that we‘ve not shown enough of that in this championship and with only one game left, it’s about time we did.”

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About David Barnes 4002 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.