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England awaits Scotland in World Cup showdown

Updated: September 26, 2011, 02:47


WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Scotland's rivalry with England runs so deep it impregnates the unofficial anthem its players belt out before matches at the Rugby World Cup.

Flower of Scotland tells the story of the victory of the Scots, under Robert Bruce, over the army of England's King Edward II in 1314. The song shows that Scots have long memories and that an antagonism toward its neighbor England is part of the historical text of its sense of nationhood.

Now Scotland faces a must-win match on Saturday which will decide whether it progresses to the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup for the seventh time in as many tournaments - and as fate would have it the team that stands in its way is England.

Scotland's attack coach Gregor Townsend told reporters Monday that his players have set aside what has been described as "grief'' at the 13-12 loss to Argentina to focus on their defining clash with England next weekend. Like Robert the Bruce, they back themselves to win against the odds.

"We're still in this tournament,'' Townsend said. "The biggest match of a Scottish rugby player's career is up against England every year in the Six Nations and we've got them at the World Cup.

"And we've got a goal; we must win and if we can win by more than seven that puts us in a really good position to get through.''

The cynical might suggest Townsend's role as Scotland attack coach is a thankless one. Scotland has scored only four tries at the tournament and all of those in their 34-24 win over Romania in their opening match. They went tryless against both Georgia and Argentina but, to Townsend's credit, they made every effort to run the ball.

They tried to do so in teeming rain against Argentina and now must do so against England because they have to win the match by more than seven points to have any chance of advancing beyond pool play.

"We just have to work harder and make sure we're more clinical with passing and the breakdown work, because England will test us as much on breakdown as Argentina did,'' Townsend said. "So it's going to be even tougher for us.''

Flanker John Barclay said Scotland would go into Saturday's match with no doubt about its ability to match and even beat England.

"We'll be confident,'' he said. "We almost beat them in the Six Nations and there's no bigger stage and no bigger game in a lot of guy's careers.

"We realize if we lose we go home. We've been building to the World Cup for months now and we have every belief in this squad.''

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