Owen Farrell has urged England to recapture the hearts and minds of supporters by beginning the process of healing their World Cup misery.
The hosts crashed out of the tournament with losses to Wales and Australia, failing to reach the knockout phase for the first time, and reacted by appointing a new coaching team led by Eddie Jones at a cost of over £1m.
Jones takes charge of his first match in today’s RBS Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield, and Farrell hopes his reign is launched in style.
“Hopefully we can put in a performance to get people behind us. We have been together for a couple of weeks now and we are excited to get out there,” said Farrell.
“I don’t know whether the fans are excited about seeing us get out there but hopefully after this weekend there will be something positive to talk about.”
Farrell won the first of his 36 caps in the same fixture four years ago when England emerged 13-6 victors at Murrayfield in the opening match of Stuart Lancaster’s tenure.
“I remember that when the bagpipes led us into Murrayfield. That was my first cap and I just thought that is what happened. I didn’t think it was any different,” said Farrell.
“When you go to different places, different things happen. We are pretty used to what happens at Twickenham and how things go there.
“You go somewhere else in the world and different things could be happening. It doesn’t make a difference to us.
“They’re a passionate crowd at Murrayfield. Yes people talk about the hostility, but it’s about how passionate you are as a crowd in terms of what you hear.”
Farrell has been picked at inside centre for the trip to Murrayfield while Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade continue their rehabilitation from injury, with George Ford selected at fly-half.
The Ford-Farrell axis has started twice before at Test level – against Samoa and Uruguay – but the partnership has served England well at age-grade level.
“I’m really excited about it. We are two guys who think about the game in a pretty similar way,” said Ford.
“We are both used to playing at 10 so we can help each other out in terms of managing the game, seeing where the space is and trying to get to that space.
“We will also keep having conversations during the game about what we need to do at that particular time depending on the state of the game.
“The understanding is there. We have played together through the age groups many, many times.
“Owen is a great guy to play with in terms of his energy and his communication, so I am sure having him outside me will help me as a 10.”
James Haskell, meanwhile, has sought to dampen expectations amid the launch of Jones’s England reign at Murrayfield. The Australian knows his honeymoon period concludes when Calcutta Cup hostilities commence and in anticipation of Scotland awaiting in ambush in Edinburgh, has put his faith in established internationals.
“It’s all been very positive so far, but it’s only been two weeks and we haven’t played a game so let’s not get too excited,” said Haskell.
“You can prepare and focus however you want, but you don’t know what course the game will take.
“We’re playing a very good Scotland side in a hostile environment and no doubt there will be bad weather and a difficult pitch.
“We’re prepared for that kind of battle and the most important thing is that we get the win to get the ball rolling.
“The World Cup is done and dusted, we’ve got nothing to lose and we want to make sure we give a good account of ourselves.
“A lot of people want the new broom to sweep clean, but a lot of those people have no concept of what international rugby is actually like.”
Jones has promised to restore the traditional strengths of English rugby – a muscular pack bristling with savage intent and a strong set-piece – rather than seek to emulate the style of New Zealand or Australia.
Victory at Murrayfield is essential if he is to secure breathing space to make changes against Italy on Sunday week and Haskell leaves little doubt style will play second fiddle to the result.
“I’ve never been a part of an England team that hasn’t wanted to play an expansive or entertaining game,” said Haskell. “You’re limited by factors such as the opposition, weather, the field, the mood in the camp. We’re trying to play a brand of rugby that we can be proud of.”
Paul Hill interview: Page 8