Scotland to upset England at HQ?
January 28, 2013
Englishman Dean Ryan has been drafted in by interim head coach Scott Johnson to help fire up Scotland © PA Photos
I know that many of you will have to stuff your hands into your mouths just to stop from laughing out loud at this suggestion. But I think that Scotland will win their first game at Twickenham for 30 years on Saturday. Despite the odds, the form book and, let's be honest here, plain common sense.
Most people question whether Scotland should even bother turning up? The Scots lost to Tonga, England beat the All Blacks and, boy, didn't they tell us all about it.
What they failed to mention was the fact that the New Zealand camp had been hit by a virus in the week leading up to that match so in the final twenty minutes, when Richie McCaw and co are usually at their best, the All Blacks were on their knees, out of puff and out of the game.
I don't want to detract from England's achievement. They attacked the Kiwis at the breakdown, which is the only way of stopping them, and when the All Blacks threatened to rally with two quick-fire second half tries, England came back at them and sealed the deal.
That took some guts but England are still developing as a team. Why did the English press focus solely on them beating the All Blacks instead of paying some attention to the fact that England also lost to a patchy Wallabies side (beaten by Scotland in Australia) that had just been smashed by France to the tune of 33-6?
Do you remember the scrums in the Wallabies match? Joe Marler does. He wakes up in a cold sweat thinking about how the unheralded Aussie front row, which conceded the winning penalty to Scotland, had the Harlequins prop doing an un-scheduled yoga class at Twickenham and setting his career back by several years.
England will likely miss Manu Tuilagi and various abrasive and athletic breakaways who are injured (Calum Clark, Tom Johnson etc) but the biggest loss will come at the coal face. Scotland will field a bigger pack of forwards and while size isn't everything England are without one of their key scrummagers in the injured Alex Corbisiero.
The giant Scottish prop Euan Murray will be licking his lips whoever Stuart Lancaster picks to replace him. Scrumming has been at the centre of the English game for a long time now and if you take away that advantage or even, heaven forbid, gain the upper hand in that department it has a similar effect on the English psyche as crocodiles have on Captain Hook.
England have Owen Farrell to direct traffic and kick goals at ten (we would love to have him) but the Scots have Greig Laidlaw to do the same at nine for us. He is out of the French mould where the scrummy (rather than the fly-half) often shapes the game.
Most importantly Scotland come with a few bullets to fire in the backs. The Kiwi flyer Sean Maitland once showed a clean pair of heels to Sitiveni Sivivatu, which is not something many can claim. The flyer scored 54 tries for the Crusaders and two of them came at Twickenham against the Sharks.
Maitland has nothing but good memories of Twickenham as does his fellow winger Tim Visser. The big Dutchman scored a brace of tries when helping the Barbarians beat England a couple of years back and he won the sevens one year whilst still with Newcastle Falcons. Just recently, when thinking out loud, Visser suggested that he had yet to lose at Twickenham.
Admittedly there is much that can go wrong with the Scotland game plan but the talk coming from the camp is that Scotland's English coach Dean Ryan is doing his rabid dog impersonation and the young boys in the squad are lapping it up. The unequivocal passion and enthusiasm of Ryan and his boss Scott Johnson has to mean something and, after a couple of insipid outings, this Scottish team know that they owe themselves and their fans a big performance.
What I am trying to say is two things: England are not quite as good as they think they are and Scotland are not quite as bad as everyone thinks they are. This opening match between the two teams will set the tone for the tournament and I suspect it will come down to the bounce of the ball or which goal kicker has his radar on target.
I think Scotland have a fighting chance of causing the mother and father of upsets next Saturday but only if they come out swinging.
To be honest I'd rather they didn't win. I have a small sum of money riding on the draw at 33-1 and them's good odds for two teams who boast an average winning margin of 6 points over their last six matches.
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