England are faced with the prospect of being without their captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, for Saturday's Calcutta Cup match against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Dallaglio picked up a hand injury against Italy on Sunday and there is so much swelling that it has not been possible for the squad's medical experts to assess the extent or gravity of the damage.
He said: "Someone landed on my hand very heavily. It is swollen and I will have to wait until that comes down. If the swelling doesn't recede, I'll have to think about an X-ray to make sure everything is OK with the hand."
The coach, Clive Woodward, delayed naming his team for the Calcutta Cup match until today. At least he was reassured about the fitness and availability of two other key members of the team which trounced Italy 50-9. Dallaglio's back-row colleague Richard Hill and the three-quarter Jason Robinson, who scored a hat-trick of tries, also picked up hand injuries in Rome, but should be fit to face Scotland.
The Scotland captain, Chris Paterson, believes his side will be able to compete against England despite their abject performance in losing 23-10 to Wales at the weekend.
"There is still hope," Paterson said at a Murrayfield news conference yesterday. "We can take a lot from our game against England at Twickenham last season [a 40-9 defeat for the Scots] when we were down to 13 men. But we know that they are a well balanced side and have decision-makers in key positions. They are strong in all areas and frankly don't appear to have any weaknesses."
But in a rallying call that echoed scenes from Braveheart, Paterson said on Saturday, immediately after the defeat against Wales: "It's England and that's the only word we need." Yesterday he remained upbeat. "England's strength is their control and balance. Their attack is simply outstanding and their defence is what they pride themselves in. But we have hope, spirit, commitment and guys that would die for the cause.
"And with luck there'll be 68,000 screaming Scotland supporters out there. We feel we let the fans down against Wales and we really need them to get behind us against England as they really make a difference." Those sentiments were shared by the back-rower Cameron Mather, who said: "Obviously this game will be a bit special because it's against England and the fact that they are the world champions will be a bonus for us.
"England are the world champions and we have to front them up or we could get beaten by 50 or 60 points," Mather added. "That is a real danger. If you see England play, they are obviously a very good defensive side and they can attack from anywhere on the pitch, so we definitely have to be on top of our game to live with them.
"The problem is we're too nice and we get bullied by teams and we need to get a harder edge about us. I'm pretty sure we will have that harder mentality against England because Italy fronted up against them and I'm sure there were a few sore England players after the match. But in saying that, England still had the skill and ability to score 50 points against them."
The Scots had one piece of good news yesterday. The centre Brendan Laney recovered from a hand injury and will be available for selection.Reuse content