Will we see a repeat of how South Africa shut down Russell's options in 2023?

Blitz defence. It’s the big tactical talking point for England as they take to Murrayfield on Saturday, in the Six Nations.

England’s defence coach is the chief architect of the new-look English system, and while the assistant recently told the BBC “it’s a work in progress.” However, it’s come up ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash as Jones was part of the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks outfit that neutralised Scotland and Russell in the pool stages last year.

Asked to reflect on that period and what either side could learn from, Russell said: “We have looked back and talked about that game, and obviously looked at England’s first two games of this campaign. I think our learnings from the World Cup were not to go into our shells if we do feel the pressure.

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“There were chances in that game against South Africa that we probably never saw on the pitch. Under pressure we probably went into our shell a little bit. Tomorrow we just need to have belief in ourselves and trust the work we have put in over the last six months to a year and staying on task. At times we will be under pressure and it will be tough, but we can fall back to what we have done this week and the last few weeks building up to this game. We can have belief and confidence in ourselves and hopefully we can take the chances that will be out there.”

In the match-up in Marseille last season, South Africa triumphed 18-3. In that match Russell found his options around him cut off again and again.

And yet, the spotlight is firmly on Russell. Even in his pre-match press conference, England replacement Joe Marler mentioned that the freedom Russell has his Scottish side playing with.

On the special attention of a blitz defence, Russell went on: “It’s probably similar to a lot of teams in that the tens are the key players in attack. I’m not sure what England are going to do – if they are going to fire out the line and try to take me out or shut me down from the outside. That is something we will have to figure out in the game.

“We will have to be able to adapt, with myself and Sione and Huw being on the same page and having Blair out wide as another option. As the game unfolds, the better it will be. If they try to shut me down, then we might have to go through Sione or Huw or Blair or someone else further out to create more chances. Although the 10 controls a lot of the attack, it is not just down to me to create things. We will be looking to other boys to get away from them.”

Scotland v England will kick-off at 4.45pm GMT on Saturday, 25 February.

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