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Swinson: England are a team there for the taking . . .

They say you should never forget your roots, but Tim Swinson was happy to wipe all thoughts of his Hertfordshire upbringing from his memory banks as he looked ahead to Saturday's match with England at Murrayfield.

Tim Swinson in action during Scotland's limp defeat in Dublin on Sunday. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS
Tim Swinson in action during Scotland's limp defeat in Dublin on Sunday. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

For short of painting a saltire across his face and swigging Glenfarclas from his hip flask as he recited the Declaration of Arbroath, there wasn't much more the 26-year-old lock could do to convince his audience that his allegiances have upped sticks and taken residence on this side of Hadrian's Wall.

Swinson might be sweating over his place in the starting line-up, as the second row is currently the most fiercely contested area of the side, but if Scott Johnson wants his team to be driven along by a bit of Braveheart spirit then his name should probably be the first on the teamsheet. Certainly, he is unimpressed by the praise that has been heaped on England since their narrow loss to France in Paris.

"England are a team for the taking," said Swinson, a line that was assuredly not lifted from the Official SRU Handbook of Stock Cliches and Platitudinous Waffle. "France played well in parts, but they didn't put in a whole team performance and still beat England."

He has a point. There were bright spots in England's performance, but not so bright as to blind anyone to the fact they still lost to a misfiring French side. And yet, England got a heck of a lot closer to France in their 26-24 loss in Paris than Scotland got to Ireland in their 28-6 defeat in Dublin. "The result was not good for Scotland and there is quite a big gap," Swinson acknowledged. "You've got to take some of the positives from it, and we can see there are some, but there is also a lot of stuff to work on."

Such as a failure to make more of field position, that old Scottish inability to turn vigour on the field into any sort of action on the scoreboard? "There's a bit of that," he admitted. "Our possession in the first half and our attacking intent was really good.

"We may have been a bit naive at times but that's something we can improve on and there's some base we can work from there."

Lost lineouts denied Scotland momentum in the Aviva Stadium, while one ugly scrum turnover led to a try for Jamie Heaslip. But while those set-piece sorrows were being drowned by Scottish supporters in the Dublin bars on Sunday evening, Swinson was less troubled by that aspect of the performance.

"It's not a concern," he insisted. "It's work we all do and the set-piece at times can be a bit strange. Ireland also lost lineouts. It's the first game of the championship and something we've got to work on this week and sort out."

On the positive side of the ledger, Scotland were unquestionably competitive for all bar the last few seconds of the first half, and possibly even a little unlucky when Dave Denton was bundled into touch just short of the line. Against that, when Heaslip, Denton's opposite number, was beaten by the touchline at the other end of the pitch, Ireland did not back off, and the field position they gained then was the platform for Andrew Trimble's opening try.

"I don't think we can split it half to half," Swinson explained. "There were still times in the second half when we looked a good team that could beat any in the Six Nations; then, obviously, there were times we didn't. It's the consistency we need to get in this year's competition that will improve our results and make us win games. There are a lot of guys here who have played a lot of rugby for Scotland, and a lot of guys here who haven't. But we, as a squad, are really close, whether it's guys who have been there for five or 10 years or whether it's guys who have been there for six months. We've got a huge desire to win and to prove ourselves, not just as rugby players but as a team and that's something we've got to take week to week. We came off worse in the [Ireland] game and now we've got to really go forward and take it to the English."

And, clearly, the opposition does make a difference to Swinson.

Whatever his own personal background, there is nothing contrived about the passion he summons for next Saturday's encounter. "It definitely doesn't get bigger than England at Murrayfield," he said.

And, in terms of lofty reputations if not sheer stature, they don't come much bigger than Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury at the moment. The critics were purring about the performances of the England second rows in the Stade de France, but Swinson was not convinced. "English commentators on English players?" he said scornfully. "They always get a lot of praise.

"We've got some high quality players too. We had three British and Irish Lions playing against Ireland, we have Sean Lamont with 83 caps, Kelly Brown with 61 caps. There are a lot of guys there who have played a lot of international rugby and proved it on the top stage, at the top level with their clubs and at international level. We've definitely got the quality.

"When we are Scotland and we attack as we can, we're a match for any team in the competition. We've just got to put that together for more than bit-part sessions, as we did against Ireland, and put in an 80-minute performance."

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