What makes a winning team? It starts with a good game plan that exploits the opposition’s weaknesses. It’s about keeping the scoreboard ticking over while you fight for every advantage. It’s about making the right decisions.
Before the All Blacks game people were criticising your decisions… Beating New Zealand — no doubt — was the highlight of my England career. No one thought we could win that. The media were starting to have a go at me and the team, so we wanted to prove people wrong.
What sort of captain are you? I’m not a bossy tyrant. I lead by example and by knowing what we’re trying to achieve.
Do you like your RT cover? It’s a bit awkward being that close to your opposite number. I’ve still got to perfect my boxing pose!
Age: 30 Position: Back row
Which away fixture do you look forward to? I always really enjoy going to Cardiff and the Millennium Stadium, especially when the roof shuts and all the crowd is singing. The atmosphere is incredible — it’s a huge challenge.
What do you do to unwind? I have a wife and two kids, so when I walk through my front door I’m not the Scotland captain, I’m “Dad”.
Who’s the young gun to look out for? The guy I’m really looking forward to seeing is Sean Maitland [a 24-year-old New Zealander with Scottish grandparents]. He’s got some serious wheels! He’s incredibly fast, and if we can give him a bit of space, it’ll be really exciting.
The English love their stereotypes. Is there a Scottish stereotype that rings true in the camp? I do like a bit of fried food and enjoy an Irn-Bru, so that stereotype is definitely true of me.
Age: 24 Position: Back row
What are Wales’s hidden strength? There are lots — great players, great coach, great spirit, but if I was to pick one thing, I’d say fitness. We call our fitness training “putting it in the bank”. We’ve got lots stored up in the bank and I think we’ll be cashing it all in in the Six Nations.
Do you get nervous? I do, but it’s a good sort of nervousness. My parents always say the bigger the game, the better I play and I think that’s true — I relish the big battles.
What sort of captain are you? If there’s something to be said I’ll say it, but I won’t just talk for the sake of talking. I don’t want to try to act like a captain, I want to be myself.
What do you do to relax? I love drumming. The shirt comes off and I hit the drums and get all sweaty, feeling a bit like a rock star… though probably not sounding like one!
Age: 29 Position: Back row
How did you feel to be made captain? [Coach] Declan Kidney gave me a call, told me to pop in and see him in Dublin. And after a bit of chitchat he asked me. I nearly had to stop myself jumping across the table to kiss him!
Is it hard taking over from Brian O’Driscoll? No, not at all, because the team’s all behind me and very supportive. Brian‘s one of the greats, and having him back in the team will be brilliant. He shook my hand and told me he was 100 per cent behind me. He said if I needed any advice then just to ask, and he’s the first person I call.
Is this a good time to play Wales? I don’t think there’s ever a good time! We’ve been on the receiving end of three defeats now. They’re tough.
How do you relax? I have a restaurant in Dublin, which is a challenge and keeps me fresh by allowing me to think about other things.