Scotland scrum coach Pieter de Villiers knows his side are in for a battle up front when England visit Scottish Gas Murrayfield on Saturday.  

The former France prop, who joined the Gregor Townsend’s coaching set-up before the 2020 Six Nations, is unbeaten in the fixture so far, and knows getting an advantage up front will go a long way to making it four on the bounce for Scotland.  

He said: "It’s important to keep your feet on the ground but it’s also important to believe you can move packs around and compete or beat them physically and set-piece wise.  

“It’s very important in Test match rugby to do well there and with all the respect we’ve got for the English pack we believe we will go head-to-head and toe to toe with them.” 

And de Villiers said there has been a change in mindset in the squad in regards to the set-piece since he arrived four years ago.  

"We looked at balance: making sure we kept Scotland’s qualities which are the attacking game and skill set but also find balance in other departments as well and over time we’ve grown confidence in our set-piece as well and it’s become an important weapon for us. 

“In Test match rugby variety becomes important, being able to vary your game and being able to take teams away from their game, and that’s why it’s so important to be strong in different departments.” 

With WP Nel and Javan Sebastian both coming into the championship carrying injuries, Scotland’s depth at tighthead has been challenged.  

Now alongside Zander Fagerson, who played the full 80 minutes against France, Nel has returned to the squad alongside one-cap Elliot Millar Mills, with Sebastian released back to Edinburgh. 

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De Villiers added: “It’s been great to see from Zander and he didn’t show any signs of fatigue in that game, and the French pack is always very physical. 

“He didn’t show any signs of fatigue and that’s why Gregor’s gone with him for the whole 80. Up until that last scrum Zander had the upper hand and we believe he did really well.” 

He also explained why veteran Nel has been given the nod over Sebastian.  

“WP has had a bit more game-time, having played at the weekend, whereas Javan hasn’t played much since his injury. Getting a bit of game time with his club will be good for him. 

Scotland Rugby News: WP Nel is back with the Scotland squad after making his injury comeback for EdinburghWP Nel is back with the Scotland squad after making his injury comeback for Edinburgh (Image: SNS)

“WP had more than 50 minutes for Edinburgh at the weekend and scrummed very well."

Northampton prop Millar-Mills was a surprise addition to the squad ahead of the opening fixture against Wales, where he came off the bench to make his Scotland debut.  

He has been a good addition to the squad, De Villiers added.  

“He’s come from Northampton and slotted in well. He has got into the groove very quickly, he’s scrummaging well and his non-set piece work is very good as well.  

“He’s deserved the right to be involved with the squad again. It’s great to have more depth. We’ve got more props and front-rowers coming through and that’s fantastic. He’s been a great late addition for us.” 

At the weekend, Glasgow’s Jamie Bhatti expressed his frustration at not featuring in the opening two matches.  

READ MORE: Jamie Bhatti admits Scotland frustration and Gregor Townsend talks

De Villiers said he’s been pleased with his form, while there was praise too for Rory Sutherland.  

“Jamie scrummed well again on Saturday and there is a lot going on among the looseheads at the moment. We’ve got players like Rory Sutherland who are not even here at the moment and he’s a Test match level player as well.  

“That healthy competition will continue and we’ll see who plays this weekend but we’ve got some string props on the loosehead side as well.” 

De Villiers, a four-time Six Nations champion with France in his own playing days, said he’s been in regular contact with Sutherland, who has been frustrated at his lack of playing opportunities with Oyonnax after moving there following the World Cup.  

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The Scotland coach added: “It can be tricky in France when you don’t speak the language and the loosehead of Oyonnax is also the captain [Tommy Raynaud] so sometimes Rory doesn’t get as much game-time as he wants. 

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“But he’ll be playing this weekend and we’ll be in close contact and hoping to see him do well.” 

He also welcomed Sutherland’s impending return to Scotland with Glasgow Warriors next season.  

“It’s always good to have our players in our system here in Scotland and it’ll be good for him to be closer to his family as well.”