Toby Flood believes England’s players will relish the hostile atmosphere of Murrayfield on Saturday when the Six Nations kicks off with a keenly-awaited Calcutta Cup clash.
The 4.45pm kick-off will be shown live on the TVs in Kingston Park Stadium’s Tap & Tackle bar in an enticing double bill which also sees Newcastle Falcons’ Under-18s hosting Yorkshire on the main field at 2pm, with free entry and parking.
“Murrayfield is pretty hostile, but it’s a great place to go and play,” said Flood, the Falcons’ kicking skills coach won 60 caps for England after graduating through Newcastle’s academy.
“It’s a bit quirky and a bit different with the running track going up one side of the pitch, but in terms of the atmosphere it’s a great way to start the Six Nations.
“It’s the oldest international rugby match in the world, and Scotland seem like they’ve turned a corner in the last couple of years. Their form has improved, they’ve gone really well and a lot of their boys have also had Lions experience in the summer.
“I’d argue it’s as tough a test as you could want for week one of the Six Nations, considering the hostile atmosphere and the potentially difficult playing conditions which you tend to get up there against a team who are on the up.”
Newcastle Falcons hooker Jamie Blamire could be in contention to win his sixth England cap after being retained in the 29-man squad preparing for the game, and Flood believes he will benefit from experiencing the Murrayfield cauldron.
“To be fair, everywhere’s hostile when England come to town,” said the former fly-half, who played for England in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final.
“For those of us who live just down the road in Newcastle it feels close to home and you think the people up there should like you, but then you get to Edinburgh and they all hate you!
“You don’t need to be an international expert in sign language to translate some of the things you see through the window when you’re on the team bus driving through the city centre on your way to Murrayfield.
“By the time you get to game day you will have already trained inside the stadium, so in that sense it shouldn’t be totally alien to the likes of a Blammy, if he’s selected. He’s probably played there before for the Falcons or at least been to the ground, but then you get there on a Six Nations match-day and it’s completely different because of the crowd and the atmosphere.
“It should be a good game, though, and if Jamie’s involved he’ll benefit hugely from having gone through the experience.”
On the same day England engage in Six Nations combat, Flood’s Falcons will be taking on Bristol in Gallagher Premiership action, with a 2pm kick-off at Ashton Gate.
Searching for a repeat of the 13-5 victory they enjoyed over the Bears in October, Flood said: “We’ve beaten Bristol once already this season, and the boys are excited going into it.
“There were bits of the Gloucester game last weekend which we were disappointed with, but a huge amount of work has gone in this week to try and address that.
“Bristol have re-discovered their form recently and are a team who have quality everywhere, with one of the biggest budgets in the league.
“They might potentially lose a bit of their star quality due to international call-ups, but in general it’s a great venue to play at and our boys are really excited about getting down there and showing people what we can do.”