Roger Uttley: Territory the key to Calcutta Cup success for England

Former England captain Roger Uttley says England must win the territorial battle in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Jack Nowell of England is hauled down by the French defence during the RBS Six Nations match
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 01: Jack Nowell of England is hauled down by the French defense during the RBS Six Nations match between France and England at Stade de France on February 1, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Calcutta Cup rivalry is to the fore on Saturday in Edinburgh as England face an altogether different kind of challenge to that which they experienced in Paris during the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship.

Sunday’s defeat in Ireland will have been disappointing for Scotland, but it did demonstrate the importance of subduing them. If you fail to get on top of the Scottish forwards they are quite capable of causing disruption and mayhem. Unfortunately for them they were unable to translate this pressure into points.

It simply served to demonstrate that possession of the ball does not necessarily guarantee success. It is where you have it and how you use it that is key.

Scotland had plenty of possession in the first half on Sunday but weren’t able to capitalise in the way Ireland did in the second half. End of story.

Against Scotland England will be going up to Murrayfield expecting and, after the setback against France, desperate to win.

But as Wales found out against Italy you cannot just run around as you please at this level. England need to get out there and ensure they play the game in the right areas of the field. They have to apply the pressure and screw the Scots to the floor because, if they try to play from inside their own half, Scotland are quite capable of tackling and causing problems.

An abundance of ball can be an embarrassment in those situations, so the English have got to be very controlled and get it right.

I take England to win but as has been shown in the past, even with a good side, they have been well beaten in the past.

Remember Dawson, Dallaglio and Co. getting taken to the cleaners in 2000 when they turned up and just thought they could roll Scotland over. A combination of complacency, appallling conditions and a fired-up Scotland was enough to see outstanding favourites get turned over.

Not only are Scotland a proud nation, they have got some very good players, and if they are given enough space they can cause you problems.

I only managed to appear in a single Calcutta Cup game up at Murrayfield during my own playing career, largely due to untimely injuries. It was the 1980 Grand Slam decider – a great personal moment because I had been kicked in the head against Wales in the previous round of matches.

Fortunately we had a month’s break in between games which allowed me the time to recover for selection. It was a memorable afternoon.

England got off to a great start in the first half but Scotland clawed their way back in the second in what turned out to be an exciting climax and ultimately a great win for those of us in a white shirt. It finished off the season in great style for us, in what up to that point had been a decade of massive underachievement.

So England go into the game after losing late on against France last Saturday, a match which was always difficult to call with two attritional big packs coming together.

Jack Nowell, making his debut on the England wing, got off to a dreadful start but managed to recover brilliantly.

He went on to play his full part in a very exciting England recovery.

It was interesting watching the England coaches moving from stoney-faced expressions into elation and then back again as France scored what was an excellent late winner. It just goes to show the topsy-turvy nature of sport at this level; highs to lows in the space of a few minutes.

On balance, from an England perspective, one could query the decision to substitute Danny Care on 61 minutes, having been in control of much of the game up until that point. It would be interesting to know if this was a substution made simply because of hitting the hour mark on the clock, or whether the GPS performance paramaters had shown a significant drop-off from his levels earlier in the evening.

That would make far more sense to me than simply being replaced because of a pre-determined script, and I hope that was the case.

It was a dreadful start, all things considered, with a soft early try and Jonny May’s early injury, it meant that England had to play catch-up.

Alex Goode came on and played some great football, and while you cannot fault him for that, I am not sure he is the answer. It would have been nice to see May doing what he does for Gloucester, but the fact the side mounted such a comeback speaks volumes for them.

It was a pity they slipped off the pace at the end, but it was a ferocious game played a tremendous pace.

Taking away the disappointment of England losing, it was a fantastic exhibition of the best attributes of the game, and hopefully an indicator of the levels we can expect to see during the rest of the championship.


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