CHRIS ROBSHAW has warned Scotland that any dirty tricks campaign at Murrayfield today will only succeed in making England stronger.
Eddie Jones’s men continue their pursuit of a hat-trick of NatWest Six Nations titles in Edinburgh, the setting for the start of the Australian’s reign in 2016.
We have experienced things, whether it’s going to Murrayfield a few years ago or Cardiff in 2015. Their tricks and sideshows used to try and put you off, things like turning the lights off.England’s Chris Robshaw
Robshaw made his first appearance as captain under Stuart Lancaster at the Scottish stronghold in 2012 and Saturday will be his fourth visit there, leaving him well versed in the potential for gamesmanship.
Obstructive bagpipers, attempts to interfere with the warm-up and the disconnecting of hot water to the visiting changing room have been used to unsettle England in the past, but the reigning champions are ready.
“We have experienced things, whether it’s going to Murrayfield a few years ago or Cardiff in 2015,” Robshaw said.
“Their tricks and sideshows used to try and put you off, things like turning the lights off.
“At Murrayfield once our coach had to enter the ground at a certain time. We weren’t allowed to deviate from that time.
“Happily enough as soon as we pulled in 50 bagpipers came out – pretty much crawled out in front of us.
“It delayed us a bit, but again we’d spoken about it. You play these mind games. It’s a bit of fun.
“You stay together as a group and after the game you have a smile about it, but at the time it brings you closer. We’ve been through it before, so we’re ready for it.
“You’re prepared. What if the bus is late, what if you’re having a kip when you get there, what if your boots break?
“If these things do arise you’re ready mentally and in a good place to deal with it straight away.
“The anthem is always very passionate and there’s the tension in the ground when we meet Princess Anne.
“As soon as the first whistle goes it will probably erupt as well. It’s just getting used to that. Once we get there it’s about not being shocked.”
England generally refuse to reflect on the past, but the squad has used Murrayfield as a marker given the symmetry for the Jones era and the meaning the venue holds for Robshaw and Owen Farrell, who made his debut there six years ago.
“We watched some clips of 2012 a while ago and we watched some more of when we went there two years ago. There were a lot of younger and fresher faces then,” Robshaw said.
“The clips were a nice reminder. They’re always close games in Edinburgh, nip and tuck matches.
“There’s always a bit of niggle here and there and there’s always rivalry between every country you play.
“There are areas of strength and areas of weakness in certain teams, but they’re always pretty competitive.
“In every aspect of the game you can’t give up and inch. If you do you’ll expose yourself and expose your team. I’m sure they’ll lift their game and we need to lift ours.”
Forwards coach Steve Borthwick also insists England are ready for any Scottish gamesmanship.
“We prepare for these situations in a couple of ways. Off the field we try to put different situations to players and try to discuss different scenarios,” Borthwick said.
“On the field it might be instances in games like sin-binning and how players deal with that. We like to make the players adapt, it’s what we do in training.”
England’s Six Nations title defence resumes at the venue where Jones’s reign opened in 2016 and since that victory, 23 more have followed with last year’s loss to Ireland the only blemish.
“From that point two years ago there has been a lot of growth in different areas,” Borthwick said.
“There has been plenty of development. I wouldn’t put a number on how much more there is to come because that starts putting limits on the players.”
Borthwick insists England will win with good grace if they prevail at Murrayfield a decade after he vowed to never forget how Scotland once gloated over victory. A year after the 15-9 defeat in Edinburgh in 2008, Borthwick revealed his anger at the post-match function when the Scots “were rubbing it in that they had beaten England”, adding “I will not forget what happened”.
Fast forward 10 years and Borthwick – who was captain that day – insists any success will be celebrated with sensitivity.
“It (conducting yourself in the appropriate manner) matters to me and our players are very proud to play for England and this team,” the England forwards coach said.
“They compete as hard as they possibly can, as fair as they can and always respect the game and the opposition. And I think they have always done that.
“I see a group of players who respect the values of this game and are very privileged to be involved in it. Those values are about respect, about teamship and I think our players do that very well.”