Steve McCormack says the Scotland Bravehearts need a positive start and consistency in their Ladbrokes Four Nations clash against England tomorrow.
Scotland face England for the first time ever at senior level at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Saturday (5.30pm ko), with Australia playing New Zealand as the other half of the double-header (8pm). While England started strongly against New Zealand before losing 17-16 in the opening round last weekend, Scotland were swept aside by Australia in a painful start, finding themselves 30-0 down and facing a record defeat, before rallying to lose 54-12. McCormack insists his side need to start as they mean to go on against England.
“A good start is vital,” said McCormack. “We were 20-0 down in the blink of an eye against Australia and you cannot do that against any team – never mind the three who we are playing – but when we got a foothold in the game, we were good.
“Here at Scotland we have got some outstanding attacking players but we didn’t get the ball to them because we didn’t complete our sets early on. We threatened Australia when we completed our sets so it is crucial that we do that for the full game this week against England. Our focus is putting our best foot forward and showing the rest of the competition that we can play because we are not here to make the numbers up.”
The veteran head coach, in his 12th season as Scotland coach, also admitted that the players are going into the game with great attitude, desire and confidence.
“We both lost our first game but we are going into this weekend with a winning mentality,” said McCormack, 45, who is on the coaching staff at Super League champions, Wigan Warriors. “I know England need to win but so do we.
“We have got an outstanding team this year and we can play well on our day and hopefully will have learned from our mistakes on Friday and have a good crack at England. There is massive pressure on England and everybody has been expecting England to win and get a big score but we are just concentrating on ourselves and that is what we have always done.
“I definitely think we have enough quality plus anything can happen if England have a bit of an off day and we play exceptionally well then anything can happen.”
McCormack made three changes to his 19-man squad, bringing in the Phillips brothers – second rower Brett and hooker Callum – of Workington Town, and calling up Batley outside back Dave Scott, the Stirling native who progressed through the player pathway from Under-16s to senior level. Half-back Ryan Brierley, who has struggled with an ankle injury all week, and forward Sheldon Powe-Hobbs and Billy McConnachie – all of whom made their debuts against Australia – miss out.
McCormack also revealed that he is looking forward to the atmosphere at the Ricoh Arena, home of Coventry City football and Wasps rugby union clubs. His only previous visits to the stadium have been as a fan, watching his beloved Wigan Athletic from the away end.
“Of course you want to play against Australia and New Zealand but when you play England it is something else,” he added. “A Scotland v England game is massive in any sport, certainly for the Scots. The intensity and media coverage of a Scotland v England game is something that we have worked towards for a long time.
“The atmosphere on Saturday will be fantastic if Saturday at Huddersfield was anything to go by – this game is the big one for us. Last week’s game was fantastic for us in opening the tournament up but this weekend’s game at the Ricoh Arena means a lot to us and I think that has been reflected by the way we have practiced this week – it has been really good.”