England vs Scotland: Stuart Lancaster has to keep lid on squad fired up to face Scotland

Six Nations contest takes place on Saturday at 7pm

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The Independent Online

England were too quiet by half as Ireland ransacked their Grand Slam ambitions in the last round of Six Nations matches, but the decibel levels were off the scale in training yesterday as Stuart Lancaster’s players staged their one major hit-out ahead of this weekend’s Calcutta Cup meeting with Scotland at Twickenham. The session was unusually fiery, to the extent that the head coach felt obliged to intervene.

“I had to calm it down,” Lancaster reported after recalling the Harlequins full-back Mike Brown and the Northampton lock Courtney Lawes, neither of whom are renowned for their pacifism, in place of Alex Goode and George Kruis, the Saracens men who played in Dublin. “We had enough people here to train 15 against 15 and there was a lot of edge and intensity from both groups.”

This will come as reassuring news to England followers still struggling to understand their team’s peculiarly muted performance in the Emerald Isle. Lancaster has spent the last week and a half making his team more effective at the breakdown – the generation of quick ball and maintenance of technical discipline being the two items at the top of the agenda – and with Lawes bringing his unique brand of aggressive tackling to the mix, there should be a marked improvement.


“There wasn’t a lot for the forwards to get into against the Irish,” the coach said. “We had only one scrum on our own ball in the whole game – I can’t remember a previous match when that was the case – and the two attacking line-out plays we had in their half in the opening 40 minutes went wrong. It’s the kind of thing that puts a team under pressure, and we can’t allow Scotland the chance to apply pressure.”

Lawes rather enjoyed the fun and games in training, even though he wasn’t particularly “revved up”, as he put it. “It comes pretty naturally to me on match day – usually about 10 minutes before kick-off,” he said. “It was a tough session, though, and it was good to see all the motivation out there.”

As for Brown, who has not played since being concussed during last month’s victory over Italy, the coach was delighted to have him back in the fold. “Mike has a winner’s mentality,” Lancaster said. “When you come down to the fine margins in selection, where so many aspects can be measured, he’s one of the people who has the ‘intangibles’. He’s not overly vocal off the field, but his sheer competitiveness on it is something you want to see in your team.”

Kieran Brookes, the Newcastle prop who has yet to start an international contest, has recovered from injury and replaces Henry Thomas of Bath, who is injured, while the Leicester lock Geoff Parling and the Northampton flanker Tom Wood also return to the substitutes’ bench.

Scotland confirm their side today and are sure to recall the Glasgow outside-half Finn Russell, who missed the Italy game because of suspension.


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