Lamont warns Scotland to be wary of new-look opponents

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Sean Lamont is wary of Scotland shedding their underdog tag ahead of tomorrow’s RBS Six Nations opener with a new-look England.

In repeating an oft-heard phrase from the camp this week, the Scarlets back believes it is time for the Scotland team to deliver in the tournament.

However, Lamont talked up the calibre of the England team, led by one-cap captain Chris Robshaw, overseen by interim head coach Stuart Lancaster and who are unfancied in some quarters.

The uncapped Phil Dowson has been named at No 8, while experienced fly-half Charlie Hodgson will line up inside Saracens team-mates Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, who will both be making their debuts in midfield opposite Lamont in the Calcutta Cup clash.

Lamont, who has 60 caps and is set to line up at inside centre, said: “We’ve got to be extra careful, because they are the unknown at this stage.

“We cannot be complacent, we’ve got to be on our guard, we’ve got to be aware of what they bring.

“They’ve got a very dangerous back three, a new midfield – but those guys play together week in, week out for Sarries.

“We’ve got a good set of boys here, with some good experience and young guys coming through, but we’re not a team who can just rock up on the day.

“We’ve just got to enforce our game – out physical them, out work them, low errors, low penalties and that’s how we’ve got to do it.”

Lamont’s anger was plain – and expletive laden – after he came off the bench in last February’s loss to Wales to be one of Scotland’s few above-par performers that day.

Rather than rouse his team-mates from their slumber and spark a realising of potential, Scotland went on to avoid the wooden spoon with a defeat of Italy in their final game, before being eliminated from the Rugby World Cup at the group stage for the first time.

A loss to England in Auckland sealed Scotland’s fate and still rankles with head coach Andy Robinson, who labelled some of his compatriots “arrogant” for their behaviour after the contest.

Lamont rued familiar failings and insists Scotland must learn to win, even at the expense of the expansive game Robinson is attempting to foster.

“It was standard stuff – missed chances, we should’ve, could’ve, would’ve,” said the 31-year-old.

“Myself and all the boys are sick of saying that. I’d rather just have the win.

“Scotland have had a lot of the old gallant runners-up. It doesn’t wash any more. It’s time to put Ws on the scoresheet. That is what it comes down to.”

Gatland delays naming team as injuries decimate Wales squad

Wales coach Warren Gatland could field a team containing just eight survivors from the World Cup quarter-final win against Ireland in Sunday’s RBS Six Nations opener.

Gatland has seen preparations for the Dublin clash badly affected by injuries.

Three members of the pack that helped brush Ireland aside in Wellington four months ago – injured trio Gethin Jenkins, Alun-Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris – will be sidelined for varying time periods during the tournament.

Hookers Matthew Rees (calf strain) and Lloyd Burns (neck) are also absent, while Gatland will confirm today whether three other players have won their fitness battles.

Gatland delayed his scheduled team announcement by 48 hours after deciding to give centre Jamie Roberts, fly-half Rhys Priestland and flanker Dan Lydiate as much recovery time as possible.

Roberts has not played since suffering a knee injury two days before Christmas, while Scarlets star Priestland went off during a Heineken Cup game in Castres last month and Lydiate has been nursing ankle trouble.

In the final shake-up, it could be that Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Mike Phillips, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau are the only players who reappear on starting duty from Wellington.

Uncapped 21-year-old Ospreys centre Ashley Beck has emerged as a strong contender to replace Roberts, with James Hook the probable replacement for Priestland and Ryan Jones the leading candidate as Lydiate’s deputy.

Added to the injury situation is a statistic showing just two Six Nations victories for Wales from six Dublin visits, which highlights their degree of difficulty in terms of securing a winning start.

“Ireland will throw everything at us - their provinces have been playing well in the Heineken Cup and Rabo Direct Pro12,” Scarlets wing North said.

“As a team we did put a marker down at the World Cup, but we want to push on from there and progress.

“The win against them in the World Cup quarter-final was massive for us.

“We all performed to the best of our abilities.

“That is where we want to be again, come Sunday, because the first game is always key and a win could really set us on our way.”

Wales, meanwhile, will also be without Shane Williams following his post-World Cup retirement from the international arena after scoring 58 tries in 87 Test match appearances.

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