Joe Worsley: 'In Edinburgh you feel the hostility in the air'

The England flanker admits the Scotland back row will present a threat on Saturday

Joe Worsley has been playing international rugby for a dozen years now and has accumulated more England caps – 75 going on 76, having been restored to the starting line-up for the Six Nations set-to with Scotland on Saturday evening – than some of those to be found in that corner of the red-rose pantheon reserved for back-row forwards: Richard Hill, Neil Back and Peter Winterbottom, to name but three. It is a remarkable story, made all the more startling by the quiet manner of its unfolding.

Worsley would himself accept that some of his appearances for his country have been so low-profile as to flirt with invisibility: many of them, especially in the early years when Hill and Back were flanking the resolutely high-profile Lawrence Dallaglio, were made off the bench, and involved 10 minutes of rugby here and there. Yet at other times, his value to the national team has been as considerable as that of any other player on the field, not least over the course of last season's Six Nations Championship, when England finished runners-up to Ireland.

Can he make a similar contribution this time, starting at Murrayfield? It is a challenge, that's for sure. For one thing, the 32-year-old Wasp from London has only just recovered from a nasty problem of the knee ligament variety. For another, the biennial trip to Edinburgh is not exactly meat and drink for English rugby folk, who have good reason to loathe the place after a run of narrow, thoroughly depressing defeats there.

"The hostility up there is tangible," he said yesterday. "You can feel it in the air, in the attitude of the whole city. The Scots are always great to us after the game. Before it, they like to let you know what they think of you, so it's up to those of us who have experienced it to make the other members of the team aware and help them deal with the situation."

It is no more than water off a duck's back for Worsley, of course. He has attracted his share of brickbats down the years and is not noted for adopting a horizontal position when the flak is flying in his direction: indeed, he has been known to have it out with his critics in some extremely public spaces.

But very few of those critics would question his commitment to the England cause, and if he succeeds in cramping the style of his buccaneering opposite number John Barclay this weekend, the red-rose management will feel more than justified in making the difficult decision to drop a player as proven and as popular as Lewis Moody.

"We face a difficult challenge from a very good back-row unit," Worsley acknowledged. "They've been playing well together for Glasgow – the improvement in the club's fortunes in recent seasons has a lot to do with them – and with Andy Robinson coaching them at international level, we know they'll be mentally tough, as well as quick across the ground. I'm looking forward to testing myself against them. The excitement I feel nowadays is not so much at being picked as at the prospect of playing well on the big occasion."

Johnson, who sees Worsley as one of his more dependable performers when the pressure games come round, expects him to do just that. Asked whether he had sacrificed a little pace in tinkering with his back-row formation, the manager replied: "We heard all that when we picked Joe last season. What happened? He turned out to be one of our best players, if not the best."

Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture