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England coach knows that underdogs often come with a nasty bite,

Having steered his side to victory at Murrayfield in his first match as England's caretaker coach a year ago, Stuart Lancaster is highly conscious of the danger of the tables being turned on him next week.

England captain Chris Robshaw and Scotland counterpart Kelly Brown pose during the RBS 6 Nations launch in London
England captain Chris Robshaw and Scotland counterpart Kelly Brown pose during the RBS 6 Nations launch in London

The English team that made the trip to Edinburgh for last season's opener did so in the rare position of being cast as underdogs, only to claim a win that put Lancaster on course to secure his post on a permanent basis.

He knows that Scott Johnson, Scotland's interim head coach, is now in a near identical situation to that which he faced then, so, in looking ahead to this season's return clash during yesterday's RBS 6 Nations launch in London, he was understandably wary.

"This time last year we were going up to Scotland with an interim coaching team . . . we were on the back of a leaked report on a World Cup that made front and back page headlines that were nothing to do with rugby and no-one gave us a chance of winning, and we did," he noted. "What's happened in the past doesn't define what happens in the future. It doesn't dictate anything. It can give you a reference point but it doesn't define it."

A former Scotland age grade internationalist, Lancaster is acutely aware of the extra dimension to this particular fixture for a team hoping to become only the fifth in more than a century and the first in 30 years to win at Twickenham.

"No-one gave us much of a chance last season, but it's amazing what you can generate with the emotion and energy you can create and obviously there's no better fixture for Scotland at the moment than against England at Twickenham," he said. "So we'll not be taking our eyes off the ball in terms of looking ahead. We'll be going one at a time because it's a unique tournament and the form book goes out of the window with every game.

"You can create an awful lot in that situation with a nothing-to-lose mentality that can run through the coaching team to the players because, ultimately, the coaches will influence how the players feel."

That said, Lancaster felt it had been essential to stay true to himself throughout. "I don't think I would have done anything different if I hadn't been interim coach," he said. "I still think it was the right time for England to start a new cycle and start to build a team towards 2015. I've said lots of times to these guys I don't think England should go through the stage of having a fresh start every four years. Hopefully this time we've got a platform to build on but the interim bit is a powerful thing."

It would be folly for Johnson to agree with that too heartily before a game has been played on his watch, and he dismissed the suggestion he is in the ideal position to do a Stuart Lancaster on Stuart Lancaster.

"Not from my end," he said. "That's too much about me and that's not what I do as a coach. It's not about me. This ride's about a group of Scottish kids and a Scottish team, so I'm hoping to get that part right in proceedings. That's what I'm hoping to do."

Ditto when it came to the parallel the England coach had himself drawn with his sense of having had nothing to lose a year ago. "Not from my angle," Johnson retorted. "Nothing to lose . . . everyone says it's about the pressure and they say there's no pressure, but the reality of this job for me as a person is I go to work every day and the pressure is making sure I give everything I have to give. It's no different to your job, it's just that I'm in the spotlight. That's the pressure and I want that pressure within the squad. I'm not going there thinking there is no pressure or there is nothing to lose. We've got to perform well and that's what we're going to do."

Asked about England's long injury list, Johnson grinned: "Can you see the emotion in me? That only gives them another 40,000 players to choose from," and he poked further fun at the portrayal of Scotland by some questioners.

"Are you saying we are the sad kids from the north that nobody gives a chance coming down to the south . . . is that what you're saying?" he asked. "Some are saying we don't have many decent rugby players, have a small population base and don't even give ourselves much of a chance.

"They can say that all they like. What we are saying is somewhat different. We are saying we have a decent team. There is an underlying will in the Scottish set-up to ruin a party at Twickenham. I am enjoying being in the same mindset as that.

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