Scotland v England talking points
The issues behind the match.
England’s NatWest 6 Nations title defence resumes on Saturday against Scotland at Murrayfield – a venue where they have not lost since 2008. Here Press Association Sport examines five talking points heading into the 136th Calcutta Cup clash.
SCOTTISH MIND GAMES
Apart from a solitary claim made against Scotland’s scrum, all shots fired in the phoney war have come from Edinburgh. The usual reference to English “arrogance” has been made, and inevitably the word “hate” has surfaced, but the chief accusation has been Gregor Townsend’s suggestion that Eddie Jones’ men repeatedly defend from an offside position. All teams push the boundaries, but notice has been served to referee Nigel Owens.
THE REAL SCOTLAND
Scotland entered the Six Nations amid high expectations that were swiftly dampened by a 34-7 rout in Cardiff. Victory over France followed but it was not entirely convincing and an emphatic reminder of the team’s direction under Townsend is needed against England. A win would reignite their title aspirations, defeat confirm the passing of another false dawn.
Finn Russell has every bit as much to prove as Scotland after the gifted fly-half, of whom such much was expected, bombed along with his team-mates against Wales before an error-strewn performance against France saw him replaced by Greig Laidlaw while the match was finely-poised. Townsend has kept faith with the Racing 92-bound playmaker, but his loyalty must soon be repaid before opinions are revised.
Among the players looking to flatten Scotland’s ringmaster is Nathan Hughes, the Fijian-born number eight who has been restored to England’s back row after eight weeks out with knee ligament damage. It is useful timing with Sam Simmonds likely to miss the remainder of the Six Nations because of a shoulder injury and although there are doubts about Hughes’ match fitness, his destructive carrying is sure to leave an imprint on the Scots.
BACK WHERE IT BEGAN
Murrayfield two years ago was the setting for the opening match of Jones’ reign, which can only be considered an unqualified success to date due to a ledger of 24 victories from 25 Tests. It was a cagey 15-9 win that launched a successful Grand Slam bid but while the personnel are much the same, this is a different team that is revisiting and the question now facing England is whether they have hit a ceiling.