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Comment: It's hard to like Twickenham, but you have to admire the team that calls it home

If Alex Salmond feels the result of Scotland's independence referendum is looking a bit touch-and-go, then he could do worse than round up the don't-knows and bus them down to Twickenham for the day.

Their experiences would pretty much seal the deal for the Dear Leader's point of view.

There is something about the old Cabbage Patch in TW1 that sets Scottish teeth and Scottish sensibilities on edge. To be a Scot in those towering stands as close to 80,000 English supporters bellow out Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory is to know how a fox might feel at a Countryside Alliance demonstration. Come to think of it, given the preponderance of Barbours and tweeds in those stands, the fox wouldn't feel very comfortable at Twickenham either.

It's hard to put a finger on the cause. I've had the privilege, not entirely dubious, of watching Scotland play rugby in some pretty partisan surroundings, from the marvellous old Parc des Princes in Paris to the gloriously febrile Estadio Monumental in Tucuman, Argentina, but I rarely feel less at home than at not-so-dear old Twickers. And, clearly, Scottish players feel much the same about it, for Saturday's defeat extended their run of abortive visits to the place to 15 – a Five/Six nations record.

There are many ways to get to Twickenham, all of them completely useless. For a venue that has been branded HQ – another reason to dislike the place – it is remarkably inaccessible. Nor is the approach the kind of journey that builds anticipation and sets the pulse racing. Unless, of course, you're the kind to get off on the experience of snail-paced traffic that crawls through bleakly dystopian suburban landscapes like the plot of a particularly slow JG Ballard novel.

My own route took me via Newcastle, where Scotland A played England Saxons at Kingston Park on Friday night. Now, I've never quite figured out why the English second-stringers should have named themselves after a state in south-east Germany, but they had no identity crisis in terms of how they played.

On a filthy night, it was old-fashioned, up-yer-jumper English rugby, and they were duly punished by their more eager and quick-witted Scottish opponents who snatched victory 13-9 with a performance of passion, pace and spine-tingling commitment.

All in all, then, it was a clash of national stereotypes. Big and slow England against the quicker, lighter Scots. Which, historically, is how games between the two nations have generally gone down the years. Scotland's wins have mostly been rampaging, with fire-snorting forwards blowing their plodding opponents off the pitch.

England, quite rightly, have played to their own strengths, squeezing the life out of Scotland on the strength of, well, strength alone. Which is pretty much what we expected of them on Saturday as well. When casseroled lamb was dished up for lunch in the media centre beforehand, someone suggested it had been made from the remains of the New Zealand side England had beaten so convincingly at Twickenham in December, but the expectation was that they would put that high-tempo performance behind themselves and revert to the tried-and-trusted power game.

So much for punditry. The fact of the matter was that England blew Scotland away in the forward battle. They were more dynamic, more aggressive and more effective. They won possession by the barrow-load and never let up for a moment. They were relentless. They hit their stride in the first minute and they were still striding on in the 80th.

The time was when England would give themselves a breather by bringing one of their old boilerhouse bruisers into the game. "Here mate," they would say, handing the ball to a Dean Richards, Maurice Colclough or Mike Burton. "Hang on to this for a bit. We fancy a bit of a rest."

But that never happened on Saturday. There wasn't a carthorse in the England stable as Stuart Lancaster's side set about their tasks. The nearest thing the game had to one was Jim Hamilton, the hulking Scotland lock, who was rendered ineffective by the pace and ruthlessness of the English onslaught. The contrast between Hamilton and Joe Launchbury, a marvellous all-round athlete, was almost painful to watch.

Lancaster has worked wonders with this England side. The disorganised, disputatious rabble who came back from the 2011 World Cup with their tails between their legs are a distant and fast-fading memory. He has instilled discipline, humility and a love of the jersey. He was rugby's Man of the Year in 2012 and is already the front-runner (still a bit ahead of Brian O'Drsicoll) to hold on to that title in 2013.

The question now is how good England can be. It is no secret the target is the 2015 World Cup. A couple of weeks ago I asked Lancaster if he expected setbacks on the way, if learning to lose was part of the process. He smiled wryly before answering.

"You don't learn how to lose, but you learn from losing," he replied. "The easy thing to do is to cast aside the tape at the end of a game you've lost or an experience that hasn't gone well and not deal with it. I think you learn as much when you lose but you don't have a plan to lose a few to strengthen you as a team."

Jim Telfer caused a diplomatic incident last week when he accused the English of being arrogant, but he specifically excluded Lancaster. Now England are playing the kind of game that was Telfer's own hallmark. It's still hard to like Twickenham, but you have to admire the team that call it home.

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