MARTIN JOHNSON has demanded that England fly out of the blocks against Scotland today or see their hopes of a first Grand Slam in eight years disappear. The England manager who was skipper the last time England won a Slam in 2003 takes his 14-1 on favourites to HQ to take on the winless Scots.
‘The bigger than game the less things change. We have to come out and start well and execute,’ said Johnson. ‘We are at home so we have to try and make it as difficult for them as possible, build a lead, put them under pressure and make them chase the game.’
Scotland haven’t won at Twickenham since 1983 but Johnson believes the history of the game will be irrelevant at 3pm.
‘It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the last three games, in autumn or for the last 30 years,’ said Johnson.
‘It is not our run. Even from two years ago only a few of the guys are around. The fact that we have won a lot of games since 1983 doesn’t affect us.
‘Things can change very quickly and the England players understand that. We have worked hard for everything we’ve got this season. Nothing has been given to us and that’s the way it should be.
‘Losing would be a big blow. We haven’t put in all this work to lose, but in terms of where our team is I believe we are still progressing.
‘We are better now than we were a few weeks ago, let alone a few months ago, but no one is patting themselves on the back as we are nowhere near where we want to be.’
Johnson believes that the clash is far tamer than when he was a player, but he still expects a fierce clash today as the Auld Enemy meet head on.
‘There was genuine hatred when I started playing. It is a classic game, always a big Test match,’ said Johnson.
‘Scotland will come to Twickenham and fight and battle for 80 minutes. If there is one constant of every Calcutta Cup game it is that the game is a battle.’
The 1990 Grand Slam clash at Murrayfield was played against the backdrop of the poll tax riots, with Will Carling’s England seen as the embodiment of Margaret Thatcher’s controversial policy.
‘In that 1990 game England went for the Grand Slam and got beaten. There was a real edge there but the world has changed a little bit,’ Johnson added.
‘That went away at the end of the decade when they weren’t quite so competitive but it is a classic game, a big tussle.
‘When the players get out there tomorrow they will be into it, there is no doubt about it. Tomorrow we have to earn everything we get.’
‘I have felt confident going into every game we’ve played. We know what we are capable of and if we execute we know we’ll be in a Test match. If we don’t we won’t be – we have to perform.
Chris Ashton needs one more try to set a new Six Nations record and three to break the championship record of eight, jointly held by England’s Cyril Lowe (1914) and Scotland’s Ian Smith (1925).