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Russell up for Calcutta Cup

Scotland stand-off Finn Russell admits Saturday's Twickenham battle with England means more to the Dark Blues than the Auld Enemy.

This weekend's 120th edition of the Calcutta Cup clash will provide the latest chapter in the long-running international sporting duel, a tale which dates back to 1879.

But while England hope they can pip Ireland and Wales to the RBS 6 Nations crown, Scotland are the stick-on favourites to trudge off with the Wooden Spoon after three straight defeats.

The two nations no longer operate on the same level. In this World Cup year, Stuart Lancaster's men have aspirations to lift the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil - but Scotland would be happy to avoid a repeat of 2011's disappointments in New Zealand, where they failed to make it out of the pool stages.

With that in mind, some pundits have suggested the annual cross-border skirmishes between the sides have lost their bite - especially after the English handed out a 20-0 drubbing to the home side at Murrayfield last year.

Scotland have not triumphed at Twickenham since 1983 and full-back Stuart Hogg this week accused the English of lacking"respect" for their neighbours to the north.

But Russell admits this weekend's London head-to-head will only set pulses racing down south if their side find themselves in trouble early on.

Asked if the rivalry between the countries remains as strong as in years gone by, the Glasgow fly-half said: "I think for Scotland is definitely is. There is still a Calcutta Cup to play for.

"But for England? It depends on how they look at this game and it depends on how they have been playing. It's hard to tell what they think of it.

"But I know for me it is still a big game.

"If we get a good start and get into it then England might be taken aback a wee bit. I'd imagine it would get a beat heated at points in the game with big hits going in."

Russell can expect to reclaim his starting slot after a two-week ban counted him out of the disastrous 22-19 defeat to Italy last month.

The 22-year-old was ruled out of the clash after a Six Nations disciplinary panel upgraded the yellow card he received in Scotland's second match of the tournament for leaving Wales' Dan Biggar in heap as he leapt for a high ball to a red.

Scotland's appeal against the decision failed but Russell is happy to let bygones be bygones.

"These things happen," he said. "There is no right and wrong I don't think. They thought [the ban] was the right decision, so fair enough.

"That's all behind me, the ban is over, and I'm just looking to the next game.

"I just need to learn from the experience. Next time I find myself in that situation I will know how to react and what to do.

"It was a split-second decision. Maybe I should have jumped up for the ball. But these are the decisions you have to learn to make."

Scotland will need to retain all the focus they can muster if they are not to make it four defeats from four.

They have pushed France, Wales and Italy close only to then shoot themselves in the foot with a string of ill-timed penalties and individual errors.

"Three defeats is not how we planned the championships to go but the last thing we need to do is get down on ourselves," said Russell.

"We can't start questioning each other and our ability.

"We've had three good performances. We know we have got a good group of players and we can win these games. If we'd had the bounce of the ball we could have taken our opportunities.

"We've lost these three games by a total of 13 points, so there has basically been nothing in any of them."


From Belfast Telegraph