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England ‘ready for anything’ ahead of facing Scotland grit and Storm Ciara in Calcutta Cup

England go head-to-head with Scotland to win the Calcutta Cup at the Six Nations on Saturday evening.

If any unbiased selector fused together a hybrid team from the Scotland and England ranks on show at Murrayfield today it would be a comfortable away win. The Scots would definitely contribute Stuart Hogg and Ali Price and there might be a debate about Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson but other than that it would be a whitewash.

If only the game were that simple for England. The sum of the Scotland parts always tends to be greater in a Calcutta Cup match, particularly one played in the sort of lowest common denominator conditions forecast for today.

Storm Ciara is heading England’s way, as is a Scottish tempest and they have to find a route past both to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive.

“I think we’re ready for anything. That’s certainly in our preparation,” said England defence coach John Mitchell.

“We’ve looked at all situations that could occur and weather is certainly one of those. It’s important for us to be adaptable in those situations.

“I’m not sure who it will favour. Certainly both teams will have to adapt to it.”

Uncomfortable memories of 20 years ago and Duncan Hodge, now a member of Gregor Townsend’s coaching team, scored all the points in a famous filth-fest victory for the Scots come flooding back.

If it comes to a tactical kicking battle in the wind and rain, England do have two decent operators in George Ford and Owen Farrell but adaptability has not always been this side’s strong point.

Take last year’s Calcutta Cup match as a case in point. England were 31-0 up at half time and seemingly running on Nike AlphaFlys when all of a sudden the momentum reversed and Scotland ran in six tries in a row to take the lead.

Ford saved the day with a late score to rescue a draw but, rather like in the first half in Paris last weekend, it was a river flowing one way with England powerless to reverse the momentum.

“The game had become extremely unstructured so it’s important to be able to adapt in that chaos,” said Mitchell.

“That’s something that we want to get better at and something that we’re focused on in our preparation.”

If Twickenham was the high point of Townsend’s grand designs on playing the fastest rugby in the world then the bruises inflicted from a string of painful defeats has led him to the more pragmatic goal of making Scotland horrible to play against.

They succeeded in Dublin last weekend in as much as they slowed Ireland’s breakdown ball to a trickle but still lost the game.

That defeat – any defeat – will be forgiven in exchange for the scalp of England.

For flanker Sam Underhill, who has a Scottish grandmother, his visit to Murrayfield two years ago underlined the bounty on England’s heads.

“I was on the bench, it was one of my first caps and first experience here at Murrayfield,” he said yesterday.

“It was probably my first insight into the emotion of the occasion.

“I was probably a bit naive to it before – getting booed off the bus and seeing the reaction of the Scotland players when they won, seeing the crowd and how much it means to everyone up here.

“It’s definitely something to acknowledge and it’s definitely there – you can’t ignore it – especially when it’s as loud as Murrayfield is.”

The pressure extends beyond the game itself to the championship. World Cup finalists or not, they would be out of it after just two rounds.

“In terms of likelihood of winning it I’d imagine so,” said Underhill.

“For us the pressure is on, which is something you can ignore and try to play down or it’s something you can embrace and I think as players we’ve got to embrace it because it’s what creates good performances.”

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