Us against the world – Hartley

Date published: February 8 2014

England hooker Dylan Hartley reckons it will be a case of “us against the world” when they face old rivals Scotland in Edinburgh.

England hooker Dylan Hartley reckons it will be a case of “us against the world” when they face old rivals Scotland in Edinburgh.

Whatever their other struggles, Scotland – thrashed by Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations last Sunday – have usually made life tough for England when their arch-rivals have turned up at Murrayfield.

Indeed England have lost on two of their last four visits to the Scottish capital and drawn another.

Hartley said being a member of a team everyone else wants to beat is an occupational hazard if you were wearing the Red Rose.

“Anywhere in the Six Nations, as an England player, it feels like us against the world,” Hartley said of Saturday's match, where England will look to bounce back from last weekend's 26-24 defeat by France in Paris.

“The last time we played there we turned up on the bus and all of a sudden a gang of bagpipers appeared in front of us.

“It took 10 minutes to get from the stadium entrance to the changing room. They marched along slowly in front of the bus.

“That's just one of those things. It might be a problem for weak players, but I don't think we've got any of those.

“It all just adds to the atmosphere. It's like when you go to Wales and the choirs are all out on the field. And they have a lovely goat as well!”

Recent Scotland-England matches at Murrayfield have often been dour, not to say dire, contests with bad weather often leading to equally bad rugby.

Rain is forecast for Saturday, with the added complication this year that the once-excellent Murrayfield pitch has come under attack from a parasitic infection.

It all points to England being drawn into the kind of grinding forward battle that has often proved their undoing in Edinburgh.

“I can imagine the Scots will be very physical and quite lumpy up front,” said Hartley.

“If we get dragged into an arm-wrestle, I'm sure we can cope with it, but we don't want to do that. We want to do that bit of the game but then play elsewhere.

“Every game I've played against Scotland has been an arm-wrestle and we have to meet them head-on. It's never been a big scoreline.

“It's not about them (Scotland) not being good enough, it's just them playing to their strengths.

“It's smart rugby.”

'Smart rugby' has often been absent in Hartley's case, his career blighted by a series of bans, with the most recent – for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes in the English Premiership final – costing him a place on last year's British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

It was something he alluded to when asked what were the prospects of Saturday's match departing from the usual Murrayfield 'script'.

“I can't promise it will. But I'm always optimistic. Look at how many bans I've had — if I wasn't optimistic I wouldn't be here!”