Greig Laidlaw: Scotland won’t target controversial star Dylan Hartley

Greig Laidlaw has insisted Scotland “can’t go looking” to wind up Dylan Hartley - but refused to rule out benefiting from the new England captain’s clouded disciplinary history.

Scotland skipper Laidlaw vowed Vern Cotter’s side will not target Hartley for special treatment in the RBS 6 Nations opener at Murrayfield on Saturday, February 6.

The Gloucester scrum-half however hinted that Scotland still believe Hartley’s career suspensions tally of 54 weeks could come back to haunt him in his new leadership role.

Head coach Vern Cotter admitted Scotland “will do our damnedest” to spoil Eddie Jones’ debut as England boss in Edinburgh next weekend.

“We can’t go looking for that,” said Laidlaw when asked if Scotland would seek to antagonise Hartley. “But time will tell. No one knows what will happen in the game.

“We’ve got to look inside ourselves, concentrate on ourselves and not worry about anyone else ultimately. It’s as simple as that.

“It’s going to be an incredible atmosphere, I think the stadium sold out in record time and it’s great as Scottish players for us to see that, to feel the support of the nation getting behind us - but that only goes so far.

“In terms of England coming up here, Dylan’s an experienced guy, he’s been around a while and he’ll deal with that.

“But it will be a tough environment - we want to make Murrayfield a place where teams don’t like coming.

“A lot of it will be down to our performance.”

Scotland boss Cotter branded England favourites for the Murrayfield showdown but vowed his side will produce an uncompromising showing.

Cotter insisted England boasting five sides in the European Champions Cup quarter-final hints at a resurgence in form after their abysmal World Cup.

“As much as they clearly go into this fixture as the preferred team we just want to make Murrayfield not a particularly nice place for them,” said Cotter.

“We’ll do our damnedest to make sure he has no comfortable day, we’ll be rolling our sleeves up and giving it our best shot.

“Eddie Jones’ record speaks for itself, he’s a good coach. He prepared his Japanese team very well for the World Cup.

“We know that England will be going back to basics for them, which is a big, hard aggressive forward pack and dominating set-piece.

“A lot of energy’s coming from the players in the Champions Cup, and Eddie will be channelling all of that desire to do well and perform better than they did in the World Cup.”

For his part, Jones believes his new England captain Hartley will “be no problem at all”.

“He’s got a clean sheet of paper and I’m really impressed by his attitude,” Jones told BBC Breakfast.

“He really wants to make this England side strong and I’m sure he’s going to be no problem at all.”

Jones added: “England sides traditionally have been tough, uncompromising forward packs and we want to get that back. That’s a non negotiable for us.

“We want to be able to win games up front and at the same time have the backs with the ability to move the ball in the space and move it accurately and with speed.”

Meanwhile Scotland centre Mark Bennett remains just “50-50” to be fit in time to face England, still battling a shoulder problem suffered in Glasgow action. Midfielders Alex Dunbar, Peter Horne and Richie Vernon are also sidelined but Cotter believes Scotland can draw on resilience, if not strength in depth.

“It’s 50-50 on Mark Bennett I would say, he’s progressing well but we’ll know more next week,” said Cotter.

“Do Scotland have some good strength in depth? No, we’ve got two professional teams.”


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