England's scrum has long been one of their traditional strengths
London (AFP) - England are planning scrum sessions against Georgia this week in a bid to keep their pack sharp ahead of their Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland at Murrayfield.
Eddie Jones’s men are well-placed in their Six Nations title-defence following wins over Italy and Wales during the first two rounds.
But, with the Championship on one of its ‘fallow weeks’, the Australian is determined to ensure complacency does not set in ahead of England’s clash with oldest rivals Scotland in Edinburgh on February 24.
Georgia may not have gained entry into the Six Nations, despite the pleas of many rugby fans on their behalf, but they have long been renowned as some of the toughest scrummagers in the global game.
England enjoyed a similar scrum practice with Wales in Bristol ahead of last year’s November internationals and captain Dylan Hartley, in the thick of the set-piece as a hooker, was prepared for some gruelling duels with the visiting Georgians on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Every scrum has to be intense otherwise you get folded up like a travel map stuffed in your back pocket,” said Hartley. “I’m looking forward to it. It will be a really useful tool and I’m sure they will take something from it as well.”
The Northampton front row added: “We’re always looking to improve our scrum. It has been going well for us. They are good players who play (in France’s) Top 14, good operators.
“You think that by mixing it up and training against someone different we will find something out about ourselves and we will learn.
“If I scrum against (England’s) Jamie George, Alec Hepburn and Harry Williams they know what we are trying to do, we know what they are trying to do and we end up negating each other.”
- ‘Biggest, ugliest, strongest’ -
Meanwhile, Jones said he was sure there would be long-term benefits to England, making the Georgians’ visit a case of money well-spent by the Rugby Football Union, who are paying for the Lelos’ accommodation.
“We’ll do scrums and line-outs against them. We want to have the best scrum in the world and they’re the biggest, ugliest, strongest scrum pack in the world,” Jones said.
“Why wouldn’t we want to scrummage against them? It’s fantastic. We’re good friends with their two coaches, Milton Haig and Richard Graham – a Kiwi and an Aussie. They were keen on the idea and it suits us perfectly.”
The Australian added: “We want to win the Six Nations but we’re also using this as a trial for the World Cup, so it’s a great opportunity for us to get some really quality scrum practice in.”
England, bidding to become the first side to win three successive outright Six Nations titles, were forced to endure an arduous 80 minutes at Twickenham on Saturday before seeing off Wales 12-6, with wing Jonny May scoring both of their two tries.
But they were also hugely indebted to replacement forward Sam Underhill for a superb try-saving tackle on Scott Williams. Had Williams crossed, that would have made the score 12-8 to England, with a Wales conversion to come.
“I remember sheer panic and then I remember just pegging it to the corner because I’ve slipped over and they had an overlap, so glad I made it in time,” Underhill said.
“The first Six Nations home game for me was a very proud moment. I was glad I got some decent time out there and very much enjoyed it.”