Hartley ready for hostile clash

Dylan Hartley believes England will not be fazed by a hostile atmosphere at Murrayfield

Dylan Hartley believes England will not be fazed by a hostile atmosphere at Murrayfield

First published in National Sport News © by

Dylan Hartley describes Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash in Edinburgh as "us against the world", but insists England are too tenacious to be affected by Scottish hostility.

England's recent record at Murrayfield points to a potentially fraught afternoon having lost on two of their last four visits and drawn on a third.

The Celtic stronghold has been the graveyard of English championship ambitions in the past and should Stuart Lancaster's men lose this weekend, their 2014 RBS 6 Nations title quest will be over.

"Anywhere in the Six Nations, as an England player, it feels like us against the world," Hartley said.

"The last time we played there we turned up on the bus and all of a sudden a gang of bagpipers appeared in front of us.

"It took 10 minutes to get from the stadium entrance to the changing room. They marched along slowly in front of the bus.

"That's just one of those things. It might be a problem for weak players, but I don't think we've got any of those.

"It all just adds to the atmosphere. It's like when you go to Wales and the choirs are all out on the field. And they have a lovely goat as well!"

England's recent lack of success at Murrayfield is mirrored by the dearth of tries - one in the last six games - in a fixture that has produced some dire spectacles.

Rain has been forecast for the hours leading into Saturday's showdown and with the parasite-infected pitch prone to cutting up, the elements required for a classic Scottish ambush are in place.

England risk being dragged into the trenches to fight the type of hand-to-hand combat that will suit their spirited, if limited, opponents. It is a game plan for which Hartley has grudging respect.

"I can imagine the Scots will be very physical and quite lumpy up front," he said.

"If we get dragged into an arm-wrestle, I'm sure we can cope with it, but we don't want to do that. We want to do that bit of the game but then play elsewhere.

"Every game I've played against Scotland has been an arm-wrestle and we have to meet them head-on. It's never been a big scoreline.

"In recent years it's been one score to win the game and we've drawn against them as well.

"It's not niggly, but there's always that arm-wrestle mentality. A lot of stoppages and a lot of set-pieces.

"It's not about them not being good enough, it's just them playing to their strengths.

"It's smart rugby. They have a big, lumpy pack who can go toe to toe with most.

"If we can match them there, get parity or dominance, then get our carrying and handling game going, get them moving around, that's when we can find gaps to exploit."

Leading Scotland's forward assault will be their fiery second row Jim Hamilton, who was warned over persistent foul play by referee Craig Joubert in Sunday's 28-6 defeat by Ireland.

Joubert told Hamilton "there's a lot going on there and you're involved in every one", to which the Montpellier lock replied "I'm only looking after myself". He was substituted shortly after.

"That's him, that's Jim's game. He's a competitor like that. He can also play as well," Hartley said.

"He's not just an enforcer. The days of the out-and-out enforcer have gone.

"He seems to have that presence about him, but he's actually got quite a good ball-carrying game. He's a good rounded player."

When asked if there is any reason to believe Saturday's clash will deviate from the usual attritional 80 minutes, Hartley replied: "I can't promise it will.

"But I'm always optimistic. Look at how many bans I've had - if I wasn't optimistic I wouldn't be here!"

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