Denton relishing shot at 'biggest game in the world'
Although Scotland's new No 8 was born in Zimbabwe he grew up aware of the needle in today's match, he tells Simon Turnbull
Saturday 04 February 2012
That's 499-233 to Scotland, then. In terms of international experience, of caps in the bag, the home XV will start with an overwhelming advantage in the Calcutta Cup match which kicks off in the Edinburgh chill this evening.
Much has been made of the New England and the fresh-broom approach of their caretaker head coach, the one-time Scotland Under-19 flanker Stuart Lancaster, but there is a touch of the New Caledonia about the team selected by Scotland's head coach, the former England openside flanker (and head coach) Andy Robinson.
There are eight changes to the XV that was beaten 16-12 by England in the final World Cup pool match in Auckland on 1 October – just one of them a new cap. Edinburgh's Lee Jones makes his debut on the right wing. The 23-year-old's lack of height has been highlighted but at 5ft 11in he is four inches taller than Shane Williams. He is also a scrum-half turned winger, just like the retired Welsh flier.
It is immediately behind a solid-looking front five that the Scots have the freshest look. On the blindside flank, Alasdair Strokosch will win a 24th cap but alongside him David Denton will make his first start for Scotland and Ross Rennie only his third.
With his stand-out mop of blond-tinted hair, Denton could make the kind of eye-catching impact that Richie Gray achieved in Scotland's opener in Paris in last season's Six Nations. The 21-year-old No 8 stands 6ft 5in, tips the scales at nigh on 18st and has a touch of the Pierre Spies about him when it comes to turning on the gas – if the evidence of his scorching scoring run from 40 yards out in Edinburgh's Heineken Cup win against Racing Métro in Paris three weeks ago is anything to go by.
That run left Sébastien Chabal rooted to the spot and was probably the fastest any Scot had shifted in the Stade Yves du Manoir since Eric Liddell, a one-time Scotland wing threequarter, sped to Olympic 400 metres gold back in 1924, in the days when the old place was known as Stade Colombes.
Like Liddell, who was born in China, Denton is not a native Scot. He was born in Zimbabwe and educated in South Africa. He came to the land of his Glaswegian mother three years ago and started off in Edinburgh Accies' second XV, before graduating to the firsts, the Edinburgh professional team, Scotland's sevens squad and then an international debut off the bench in the World Cup warm-up match against Ireland at Murrayfield last August.
Denton, who prefers No 8 but has also operated as a blindside flanker, failed to make the cut for the World Cup. But he has played his way into Robinson's Six Nations plans.
"I'm hoping that mentally I'm going to be able to take it in my stride," he said. "There's a big difference between playing 20 minutes off the bench in a friendly and starting against England. Scotland-England is the biggest rugby match in the world. It'll be an incredible experience for me. It's a match I've watched and dreamed of playing in since I was a kid. I was always told we were supporting Scotland and anyone who played against England.
"My ball-carrying has been going really well with Edinburgh and hopefully I can bring that on to the pitch on Saturday. That's my main job in the team. If we don't get the go-forward ball then we're going to struggle to score the tries. We've got to get ourselves on the front foot."
Scoring tries against England at Murrayfield? That would be something pretty newish for Scotland. The last one came from the winger Simon Danielli in a 35-13 defeat in 2004.
That was Scotland's last home defeat against the Auld Enemy. Since then, they have won two and drawn one at Murrayfield – without crossing the English whitewash.
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