"Different Animal" - Dylan Hartley Expects 'World Beaters' Scotland to Bring the Fight Against England - Ruck

“Different Animal” – Dylan Hartley Expects ‘World Beaters’ Scotland to Bring the Fight Against England

Former England captain Dylan Hartley believes that Scotland are a ‘different animal’ today, compared to the side that he used to play against. Hartley expects the Scots to poise England with a tough fight, as Steve Borthwick’s men travel to Murrayfield this Saturday for their third round clash in the 2024 Six Nations.

The former England hooker has been overly impressed by Gregor Townsend’s side, and discussed how the men from North of Hadrian’s Wall can be ‘world-beaters on their day’. Speaking to Gambling Zone, Hartley backs the bookies’ decision to put Scotland forward as the favourites for the fixture;

Dylan Hartley of England (Capt) arrives before the six Nations Championship match, between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, London , UK, on the 17th March 2017. (Photo:Dean Lancaster/PPAUK)

“I think it’s fair that the bookies have made Scotland favourites. Recent history says that they should be favourites, but I think England will like going into this match without being labelled favourites. Scotland by their own admission struggle with consistency. They can be world-beaters on their day; they can create things and they always have the bit between their teeth when they play England.

“They seem to raise their game. How do they deal with being favourites? I’m not sure. It’s a difficult task going to Scotland, it’s not what it used to be, they’re a different animal. There is a genuine belief in this Scotland team.”

Referee, Paul Williams looks too. The clock as Scotlands players celebrate and Owen Farrell, Captain of England looks on during the Six Nations Championship, Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 4th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Hartley attributes some of this rejuvenated form to Scotland’s talismanic fly half Finn Russell. The hooker has been full of praise for the Bath man, and how the self-proclaimed ‘Lionel Messi of Rugby’ is a character that can help elevate the overall growth of the game to new audiences.

“Finn Russell’s an inspiration with the way that he plays and his whole demeanour and attitude lifts those around him. The attitude he has towards the game is infectious and he’s the sort of player that the Six Nations needs.

“We’ve seen England with their rush defence; with a whole new level of line speed. Finn is one of these players that can manipulate depth and he can even take the ball really flat and encourage the England defence onto him.

Finn Russell, Captain of Scotland Rugby during the Six Nations Rugby match between Wales and Scotland at Principality Stadium on February 3, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

“Equally, he can goad the defence to come on to him quite deep and if you look at guys shooting out the line for England, putting pressure on fly halves, Finn’s got the ability to the ball inside, outside, on his foot and can exploit that. I think it will come down to who cracks first. Do they put his skills under pressure, or does he exploit England’s line speed? It’s going to be interesting.”

England have announced their team, which has included a reshuffled midfield partnership. Exeter’s Henry Slade retains his place at outside centre, yet Fraser Dingwall has been dropped from the match-day 23 in favour Ollie Lawrence. There was plenty of excitement for the return of the Bath powerhouse, as he and Manu Tuilagi returned to the England training camp over the past week. Despite Lawrence’s inclusion, Tuilagi has been left out of the trip to Scotland, much to Hartley’s surprise.

Manu Tuilagi of England during the Autumn Nations Match between England and Australia at Twickenham on 13 November 2021. Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK

“Manu’s back in training. Fraser Dingwall and Manu Tuilagi are two completely different athletes. From what we saw from Steve Borthwick at the rugby World Cup is that he picks a team. He doesn’t have his fifteen, he didn’t at the World Cup, and he changes the team to suit the opposition.

“I think this might be the first time that we see him deviate from the team that he has picked for the opening two matches. I think he will pick a team to exploit Scotland and I can see a bit of Manu coming down Finn Russell’s channel. That’s no slight on Fraser Dingwall who has done fantastically for England. I think you’ve got Manu in the team, then every day of the week he’s got to be playing.”

Dylan Hartley of England during the Quilter International Match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on 10th November 2018. – PHOTO: Gareth Davies/PPAUK

This weekend looks to be a make or break match for England, with Scotland set to provide the toughest test so far in the 2024 Six Nations campaign. Last year, Scotland ruined Borthwick’s first match in charge of England, as they recorded a 29-23 win at Twickenham. Hartley believes that if England can beat Scotland, they will be elevated into the conversation regarding genuine Six Nations contenders.

“I think if England beat Scotland, then they are contenders. England are quietly going about their business. It’s like England in the World Cup, nobody expected them to do anything at the tournament and quietly they go about their business and appear where they need to at the right time.

“If England get past Scotland, then they’ll be playing Ireland. Anything can happen at the Six Nations and any team can lose one game and still come out on top at this tournament.”