Chris Robshaw has warned Scotland to be ready for a “massive reaction” from an England team smouldering at their Grand Slam-ending loss to France.
Two rivals who tasted defeat in the opening round of the 2014 Six Nations meet at Murrayfield on Saturday.
England were dispatched 26- 24 in shattering circumstances at the Stade de France when, having nudged 24-19 ahead, wing Gael Fickou glided over in the 77th minute.
Little comfort has been drawn from the character-fuelled fightback staged in a compelling match as Robshaw outlined what is expected from the 2015 World Cup hosts.
“There will have to be a massive reaction. All the guys have been seething a bit. To have gone so close and played so well….” the England captain said. “Our game is not judged on performance, it is judged on results.
“We need to make sure we turn our performance into results. Both sides lost on the weekend and we want to rectify that. No one wants to be called plucky losers. Everyone wants to be winners.
“That’s why we play the game – to win the big tournaments. We don’t want to play well to finish second every time. We’ve now left ourselves with a lot of work to do and all the guys are up for that.
“We now need a bit of luck along the way but there are certain elements in our hands still.”
Robshaw believes England, who will be removed from the title frame should they lose in Edinburgh, thrive in adversity.
“If you look at the character of the squad every guy seems to step up in these arenas,” he said. “We’ve been to some pretty hostile environments, Murrayfield being one of them. Paris last week,Ellis Park, all these type of places.
“It’s you against them and you need to make sure you come out on top. When guys look around and see the characters around them and know what these guys are capable of it gives them strength.
“There’s a slightly different pressure on us now. Both us and Scotland have lost our first games and are fighting for that win.”
The Stade de France witnessed one of England’s best attacking performances under head coach Stuart Lancaster, but they may berequired to play a different game against Scotland.
The alarming state of the Murrayfield pitch has been condemned and with rain forecast for the hours building up to the Calcutta Cup clash, the scene has been set for a Scottish ambush.
“We speak about being an allcourt team and being able to mix it when it’s wet and dirty but also playing an expansive game,” Robshaw said. “I’ve only been to Murrayfield once. It’s a very tough environment. They put a lot of pressure on the breakdown and try and slow you down. We know we’re going to have to face adversity at times, we know it’s going to be tough and attritional.”
A parasite infection that has been treated with garlic, combined with a wet winter, has seen the ground cut up badly during Scotland and Edinburgh games this season. But prop Joe Marler is unconcerned, saying he has played on far worse surfaces.
Scrummaging could be particularly problematic, but past experiences – notably at Bristol club Dings Crusaders – have left Marler nonchalant as he prepares to lock horns with the Scots’ front row.
“At Crusaders the pitch was full of sand, pebbles, glass, hopefully Murrayfield won’t be as bad as that!” the prop said. “There are quite a few pitches out there that are like that. It’s the same for both teams.”
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre praised the collaboration between the national federation and French clubs following his side’s dramatic defeat of England.
France began their Six Nations campaign in the best possible fashion with a last-gasp defeat of their keenest rivals thanks to Maxime Machenaud’s conversion of Gael Fickou’s try at the Stade de France.
But Saint-Andre insisted France’s never-say-die finish would not have been possible without the help of Top 14 clubs and the French Rugby Federation (FFR).
“There was an evolution, we have to congratulate the French Federation because if we hadn’t had two weeks to prepare, we wouldn’t have won. I have to be clear on that,” said Saint-Andre.
“Also, I have to congratulate the Top 14 clubs because they didn’t have their players last weekend, it’s also due to this development [that France won].”
France were off to a flying start as Saint-Andre’s gamble on debutant fly-half Jules Plisson paid dividends, the Stade Francais No10 creating the opening try inside the first minute with a clever chip over the defence for Yoann Huget to score.
“Jules’ performance was in the image of the France team, the first 20 minutes were magisterial, magnificent, technically and tactically right. But then one moment he dipped, he missed a few tackles at the beginning of the second half and made some mistakes.
“But we challenged a young player to play at the top level, he lived up to it and in his first appearance for the national team to play 80 minutes, I must congratulate his mentality.”
According to captain Pascal Pape, last year’s trials and tribulations, in which they lost eight out of 11 internationals, created the strength of character that turned defeat into victory on Saturday.
“In 2013 we had a lot of disappointments, that also creates a group through bad results.
We learnt lessons,” he said. “We know there’s a lot to work on because we were the ones inside that game, we know where we want to be going so we’ll enjoy it and then get back to work.”
Meanwhile, Antoine Burban will discover the extent of the ham-string injury he suffered against England this morning.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster insists Wales, who shattered his side’s Six Nations dream last year, now provide the inspiration to stage a championship fightback.
France were installed as favourites to relieve Wales of their crown after a late converted try, brilliantly finished by the dancing feet of Gael Fickou, inflicted a 26-24 defeat on Lancaster’s men in Paris.
The loss means England must win all four of their remaining games, starting with Saturday’s visit to Scotland, to improve on two successive second-placed finishes.
A defiant Lancaster reacted to the Stade de France setback by reminding his players that in 2013 Wales were edged by Ireland in their Cardiff opener yet went on to successfully defend their title.
“Wales lost in the first game last year and won the championship, don’t forget that. That’s what I told my players after the game,” he said. “France will be a tough side to beat, but championships aren’t won in the first round.
“We’re disappointed to have lost and that’s probably a reflection of where we are in terms of our expectation.” Only three and a half minutes were left when Fickou’s footwork outwitted the cover defence with his route under the posts offering Maxime Machenaud the simplest of match-winning conversions.
Having controlled long spells and seemingly dictating the final stages of a chaotic and gripping contest, England were stunned to have slipped behind. With a trip to Edinburgh looming next weekend, the challenge facing Lancaster is to lift spirits as quickly as possible.
“It will be difficult to pick the players up initially, but I’m confident of the impact it will have when I show them the tape of the game,” he said.
“We showed great character, but the skill and execution and lines of running were also good.
“We’ll take plenty of positives from that and we’ll be able to get them in the right place because clearly Scotland away is a massive game.”
There was much to praise in England’s performance as they once again drew on their reserves of character to turn a 16-3 deficit into a 24-19 lead, but as Lancaster accepted afterwards, “we need to win big games”.
The head coach also distanced England from reports that an approach has been made for rugby league star Sam Burgess of the South Sydney Rabbitohs with a view to him playing in the 2015 World Cup.
“I can’t comment on it, other than the fact that I haven’t or no one from the Rugby Football Union has approached the Rabbitohs,”
Lancaster said. “We’ll have to wait and see, it’s not for me to decide. He’s under contract at the Rabbitohs as far as I’m aware.”