SCOTLAND will have to do an awful lot of things right if they are to pick up a first win in 38 years at Twickenham this Saturday, but before they start to think about how they beat the opposition, they must first make sure that they don’t beat themselves with another sloppy start, says flanker Hamish Watson.

With England missing several key forwards – including tight-head prop Kyle Sinckler (banned), loose-head props Mako Vunipola (ankle) and Joe Marler (personal reasons), second-row Joe Launchbury (fibula) and Sam Underhill (hip) – and their vast stands at Twickenham lying empty, you might argue that Scotland will never have a better opportunity to defeat their oldest rivals on enemy territory.

However, Watson says it is vital that his team do not get ahead of themselves or take their eye off the ball, because they have started slowly the last two times they have played in London, and although they recovered in 2019 to come within a whisker of a famous win (before having to settle for a draw), that was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of match, and they were not so lucky in 2017 when they ended up on the wrong side of a 61-21 hammering.

“It’s good having that game in 2019, knowing how well we performed in the second half and that we can do that against a team like England away from home, but I was also involved in the 2017 game as well so know how wrong it can go if things get away from you early on,” said Watson, who is almost certain to be named at openside flanker when head coach Gregor Townsend names his team for this year’s Six Nations curtain-raiser at lunchtime today.

“Compared to both of those games, we are going to have to start well because that makes it a lot easier to stay in the game and gives you the best chance of winning.

“In any international game you’ve got to come with that extra bit of focus, to control the first 20 minutes of the game and maybe not play as loosely,” he added. “When we’ve gone to Twickenham the last two times, we’ve definitely not done that. In 2017, it was a yellow card that didn’t help, but in 2019 there was no excuse, it was just a slow start and we put ourselves in a dreadful position.”

If Jamie Ritchie has come through his return to play protocols following a concussion last month, he will line-up at blindside flanker on Saturday, and the jungle-drums suggest that Gary Graham will get the nod ahead of Matt Fagerson and Blade Thomson as the third member of the back-row at No.8. Watson was giving nothing away about who has been running in the starting XV at training but did say that he would have every confidence in the Newcastle Falcons man being able to provide the aggression and raw physicality Scotland need if they are to upset England’s applecart this weekend.

“I think the last time he was involved was during the Six Nations before the World Cup and we saw glimpses of what he is capable of in that campaign,” said Watson. “Since then – especially this season in the Premiership – he has been playing well. He’s a big and abrasive ball carrier and likes to get stuck in. So, we’re just going to have to see what happens. There’s a buzz around the camp,” he added. “It’s a huge opportunity to go down there and put in a great performance but we know how good a side England are – they are one of in-form teams in the world at the moment.

“We know it’s going to be a real tough challenge even if they have a few problems with a few players missing. England have got great depth.”

The other big selection call will be at inside-centre, with Townsend choosing between throwing 21-year-old Cameron Redpath in for his debut against the country he only recently turned his back on or sticking with one of the more experienced options at his disposal in James Lang or Duncan Taylor.