Hartley not yet in Scotland's sights

Greig Laidlaw (AFP)
Greig Laidlaw (AFP)

London - Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw insisted on Wednesday his side would not go out of their way to rile new England skipper Dylan Hartley but refused to rule out a Murrayfield flare-up.

England, under new coach Eddie Jones, begin their Six Nations campaign away to Scotland in the latest edition of rugby union's oldest international fixture on February 6.

The Australian, the first overseas coach of England, has installed Hartley as his captain even though the hooker has amassed a huge 54 weeks worth of bans during his career.

"We can't go looking for that," said Laidlaw when asked if Scotland would try to wind-up Hartley.

"But time will tell. No one knows what will happen in the game," the Gloucester scrumhalf added at the Six Nations launch in London.

"We've got to look inside ourselves, concentrate on ourselves and not worry about anyone else ultimately. It's as simple as that.

"It's going to be an incredible atmosphere, I think the stadium sold out in record time and it's great as Scottish players for us to see that, to feel the support of the nation getting behind us -- but that only goes so far.

"In terms of England coming up here, Dylan's an experienced guy, he's been around a while and he'll deal with that."

Scotland were minutes away from a semi-final place at a World Cup where hosts England crashed out in the first round.

But Scotland coach Vern Cotter said that, with five clubs in the last eight of the European Champions Cup, English rugby remained strong.

"As much as they clearly go into this fixture as the preferred team we just want to make Murrayfield not a particularly nice place for them," said Cotter.

"Eddie Jones's record speaks for itself, he's a good coach. He prepared his Japanese team very well for the World Cup.

"We know that England will be going back to basics for them, which is a big, hard aggressive forward pack and dominating set-piece," the New Zealander added.

"A lot of energy's coming from the players in the Champions Cup, and Eddie will be channelling all of that desire to do well and perform better than they did in the World Cup."

Scotland centre Mark Bennett, who impressed at the World Cup, was rated at "fifty-fifty" to face England by Cotter after suffering a shoulder injury playing for Glasgow.

Fellow inside backs Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne and Richie Vernon are also sidelined at the moment.

With only two professional teams to draw on in Edinburgh and Glasgow, strength in depth remains an issue for Scotland but Cotter was heartened by his squad's resolve.

"It's fifty-fifty on Mark Bennett I would say, he's progressing well but we'll know more next week," said Cotter.

"Do Scotland have some good strength in depth? No, we've got two professional teams.

"This is a tough competition.

"If you measure our character, we've got good character and some really good individuals.

"But if we get banged up, we know what that means."

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