At 6’7” tall and 18 and a half stones in weight Grant Gilchrist has increasingly brought his presence to bear in the Test arena this season, but the former Scotland captain believes he and his colleagues must achieve a higher level of physicality than ever before to have a chance of upsetting the odds at Twickenham on Saturday.

That is, of course, a pretty standard message from Scottish rugby players anticipating meetings with English teams that are packed with formidable athletes. It was, though, no mere platitude from the 27-year-old who is the only Scotland player to have been on the pitch for every minute of this Six Nations Championship since he was able to explain exactly what he meant in analytically outlining how they must impose themselves upon a team that revels in its capacity to brutalise opponents when it scents the slightest weakness.

“We need to take the good stuff we did at the weekend, make the improvement that we needed. Physically, we need to be better than we’ve ever been before. That’s a given, you won’t win there unless we defend better and are more physical,” said the man who, when was asked to captain Scotland by previous coach Vern Cotter’s when he was just 23.


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“The physicality isn’t about effort, it’s about accuracy as well. You can try and hit somebody hard, but you’ve got to be in the right position to hit in twos, to make sure that we get set first so that we can then get off the line and get in at them. At times against Wales it wasn’t our tackling, it was getting round the corner, getting beaten round the corner or getting beaten on the edge. Getting in that position to become physical is a huge thing as well and ball in hand you can only be physical if you know what you’re doing and your shape’s right, the right shape around you to get one-on-one tackles and stuff like that. Obviously, there’s a lot of things that go on behind that that make it the most physical we’ve ever been, but also be the best rugby we’ve ever played, really.”

A particular failing has been an inability to break down opposition defences at close range and attention is being paid to that.

“The work that you do near your opposition’s line is different,” Gilchrist acknowledged. “Defences are different. We had a few real opportunities to drive that we’re disappointed with, we got penalties from a couple of them but we really wanted to score the points through that. The best teams when they’re down there score the points through their maul or through pick-and-go or through a different form of scoring. It doesn’t always have to be from 30 metres out, 60-metre tries. Yeah, that’s brilliant, but what we’re working on this week is how we can finish when we’re in the opposition zone.”

Strangely, six years after his Scotland and Six Nations Championship debuts,this will be Gilchrist’s first visit to the venue that has been a source of more Scottish trauma than any other. The statistics show that the national team’s chances are far better when he is in the team, 18 wins in 34 appearances representing a far superior return to that of most of his contemporaries, but for all that his only experience of playing against England was when Scotland reclaimed the Calcutta Cup on their home turf last year, he is by no means oblivious to the events and implications of the previous year when Cotter’s term as coach ended with a seven-try, 61 point humbling.


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“The standard of the Six Nations says that if you’re away from home and you get it wrong you can look pretty silly, so we understand the pressure on us to perform,” the lock observed. "If we don’t get it right we won’t compete and we won’t get the win we are desperately looking for. We believe we can do it, we know the size of the challenge but we have believed throughout the tournament that if we put together the bits we have got right into one performance we can beat any team.”

The same claim can be made by Saturday’s hosts, with rather more supporting evidence and England coach Eddie Jones has sought, this week, to feed off indignities they suffered last year, but Gilchrist said such distractions will be disregarded.

“We don’t get involved in anything like that, we’ve enough to worry about with our own game and going down there preparing to play a game of rugby,” he claimed.“We need to address some areas of our game we need to work on and we’re playing one of the best sides in the world at their home. It’s a huge challenge.”