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Winning ugly in Calcutta Cup will do just fine for James Haskell

Published 05/02/2016

James Haskell is expecting a hostile atmosphere at Murrayfield
James Haskell is expecting a hostile atmosphere at Murrayfield

James Haskell has sought to dampen expectations amid the launch of Eddie Jones' England reign at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Red Rose begin the process of rebuilding after last autumn's disastrous World Cup group exit when they face Scotland in an RBS 6 Nations opener fraught with danger.

Jones has had only two weeks to shape his England team and has faced accusations of conservatism in selection after failing to pick a single debutant in a starting XV containing 512 caps.

The Australian knows his honeymoon period concludes when Calcutta Cup hostilities commence and in anticipation of Scotland awaiting in ambush in Edinburgh, has put his faith in established internationals.

"It's all been very positive so far, but it's only been two weeks and we haven't played a game so let's not get too excited," Haskell said.

"You can prepare and focus however you want, but you don't know what course the game will take.

"We're playing a very good Scotland side in a hostile environment and no doubt there will be bad weather and a difficult pitch.

"We're prepared for that kind of battle and the most important thing is that we get the win to get the ball rolling.

"The World Cup is done and dusted, we've got nothing to lose and we want to make sure we give a good account of ourselves.

"A lot of people want the new broom to sweep clean, but a lot of those people have no concept of what international rugby is actually like."

Jones has promised to restore the traditional strengths of English rugby - a muscular pack bristling with savage intent and a strong set-piece - rather than seek to emulate the style of New Zealand or Australia.

Victory at Murrayfield is essential if he is to secure breathing space to make changes against Italy on Sunday week and Haskell leaves little doubt style will play second fiddle to the result.

"I've never been a part of an England team that hasn't wanted to play an expansive or entertaining game," Haskell said.

"You're limited by factors such as the opposition, weather, the field, the mood in the camp.

"We're trying to play a brand of rugby that we can be proud of and that will get us the win. But ultimately all I care about is winning.

"We all want our game to evolve into that higher art form that we see in classical games, but a win's a win. It keeps everyone happy."

The Scots were Europe's best performers at the World Cup with only a last-gasp penalty from Australia - which was awarded in error - blocking their passage into the last four.

"Scotland were very unlucky not to reach the semi-finals. They're a team that has evolved and developed," Haskell said.

"They're dangerous and will be looking to get a scalp in the first game on home soil.

"There will be nerves on both sides so it's the first team that settles and imposes itself on the opposition that will carry the day."

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