At Scotland's team announcement on Tuesday, Andy Robinson was at great pains to talk up the opposition in tomorrow's Six Nations opener at Murrayfield, pulling back from his previous attack on "the arrogance" of certain England players. "I think it's a quality side we're up against," he said. "We've got a lot of respect for the coaches that are there with England."
It was via one of his players that Scotland's head coach – born and bred in Somerset and a former England flanker and head honcho – was re-introduced into the pre-Calcutta Cup cross-border crossfire yesterday. Asked if it was difficult being wound up for a conflict against the Auld Enemy by "a pure-bred Englishman" – and whether the Scotland players had to slightly watch what they said about "getting into them" – Alasdair Strokosch replied: "Probably not. I think he hates them more than we do – judging by what he says to us."
Strokosch, who plays his club rugby on the blindside flank for Gloucester, continued: "No, that's not an issue. He's the most overly-competitive man you'll ever meet in your life. I think he's just desperate to stick it up his old employers and people he knows – and so desperate to win all the time – that that's how it comes out."
It is five years and two months since Robinson parted company with his old employers after two years as England's head coach. He did so less than harmoniously, falling on his sword after a poor autumn campaign, complaining about lack of support from the RFU.
"It's a huge opportunity for us," added Strokosch. "It has been an upward curve for everyone since the World Cup. We must continue that. We've said how good we are before yet we go into games and make an arse of it. We're saying exactly the same now but there are no excuses any more. It's down to us."
Wales are set to risk Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts for their opener in Dublin on Sunday. Warren Gatland names his side at today and is ready to go with the No 10 and inside centre after positive results from fitness tests on their knee injuries. However, the news does not seem so positive with Dan Lydiate. The flanker still has an ankle problem. There will no place in the 22 for Gavin Henson.