x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

No looking back for Andy Robinson ahead of 'phenomenal challenge'

The Scotland coach says 'the guys are in great shape', as Martin Johnson says he regrets the ball-switch scandal.

England’s Tom Croft, left, wrestles with Dan Cole during a training session.
England’s Tom Croft, left, wrestles with Dan Cole during a training session.

The future is all that matters for Andy Robinson, the Scotland coach, as his side go in search of the victory over England that would extend their stay at the World Cup in New Zealand.

Scotland tomorrow take on England in a must-win Pool B clash at Eden Park in Auckland, with Robinson hoping his side can progress to the quarter-finals at his former team's expense.

"You can never turn the clock back, you've always got to look forward," said Robinson, who was the England coach between September 2004 and November 2006 after being forwards coach in the 2003 World Cup-winning campaign.

"Historians like looking back. I'm the type of guy who likes looking forward and looking forward to challenges that are there.

"The guys are in great shape and I'm really looking forward to seeing how we face what is a phenomenal challenge for us tomorrow.

"England-Scotland games have always had massive hype about them and this one is going to be a fantastic occasion. We all should look forward to the game.

"I really hope it's another cracking Test match; two teams going head to head that know each other pretty well."

He said the key for his team is breaking down the England side. "If we can do that, we've got the players to finish off and that's what we'll focus on."

The ingredients are present for a momentous occasion.

The fixture is 140 years old, dating back to the first meeting at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh in 1871, yet this is the first time the two sides have met on neutral soil.

The Calcutta Cup will not be at stake, but the prize of progression to the last eight of the tournament is incentive enough.

The agonising loss to Argentina last Sunday, when Scotland led by six points with eight minutes to go, has been put behind them and Robinson said he is totally focused on victory over England. "The guys are in good shape," he said.

Robinson has selected a starting XV showing six changes from the side which lost to Argentina.

The captain, Alastair Kellock, returns in the second row, Euan Murray at tighthead prop and Richie Vernon starts at number eight, with Kelly Brown ruled out with a concussion. Mike Blair has been promoted to start at scrum-half, Sean Lamont has been moved to inside centre, with Simon Danielli taking his place on the wing. Joe Ansbro is to start at outside centre.

Scotland's most-capped player and leading points scorer, Chris Paterson, will set a record with his 15th World Cup appearance.

Victory by eight points or more is required for Scotland to advance to the quarter-finals.

Johnson regrets ball-switch scandal

Martin Johnson, the England coach, has revealed his regret over the ball-switch scandal that led to two senior members of the side’s management team being banned from tomorrow’s game against Scotland.

Jonny Wilkinson’s mentor Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon were found to have illegally switched balls during England’s 67-3 victory over Romania.

Asked whether the situation had been an embarrassment for England, Johnson said: “Paul and David did what they did in the heat and confusion of a Test.

“We should have asked the referee if switching balls was permitted. We didn’t. They asked us to stop. We did.

“I don’t suspend guys lightly. We regret what we did and it was wrong.”

Rugby World Cup officials confirmed that England would face no further sanctions, having been satisfied with the RFU’s response.

Johnson preferred to focus his attention on today’s decisive Pool B showdown with Scotland, which could leave one side facing elimination before the knockout stages for the first time.

England will still qualify if they earn a losing bonus point, but Johnson insisted that the Eden Park clash is winner-takes-all.

“There has been a definite edge about it,” Johnson said.

“We are playing knock-out rugby. This is where we want to be: playing a big pool game, wanting to win it to win the pool. There is lots of chat of getting bonus points but we want to win the Test match as we always do. That doesn’t change.”