Six Nations
Scotland to upset England at HQ?
Iain Morrison
January 28, 2013
Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson and his assistant Dean Ryan cast an eye over a training session, Scotland training session, Scotstoun, Glasgow, Scotland, January 22, 2013
Englishman Dean Ryan has been drafted in by interim head coach Scott Johnson to help fire up Scotland © PA Photos

ESPNscrum Analysis

  • Key Player: Ryan Grant made his Test bow in the historic win over Australia last year and the loose-head has since forged a reputation as a brutal technician at scrum time with a hunger for work in the loose. His name has also been mentioned as a potential Lions tourist with the Six Nations set to be a key proving ground.
  • Rising Star: The rapid ascent to the Scotland ranks of New Zealand-born Sean Maitland has generated many headlines but the fleet-footed winger is set to let his feet do the talking during the Six Nations - in the words of his coach Scott Johnson: "He's certainly got some shoes."
  • Crunch Clash: There is little doubt that the showdown with England at Twickenham will set the tone for the Scots' campaign. While a shock victory would see them embark on three successive home clashes with renewed confidence, even a gutsy showing in defeat will offer cause for hope that they have turned the corner.
  • Coaching Clinic: Interim head coach Scott Johnson will no doubt be hoping to follow the lead of England coach Stuart Lancaster who began last year's Six Nations in a similar position and is now firmly ensconced in the Twickenham hotseat. Free of the pressure that plagued his predecessor Andy Robinson, Johnson knows an improvement on last year's wooden spoon will boost his chances of taking the job full time while a repeat will mean a return to his previous role within the support staff - if he is lucky.
  • Verdict: The relative home comforts of Murrayfield will certainly help the Scots banish the memory of their shock defeat at the hands of Tonga in the autumn but there remain significant question marks about the ability of a new-look squad to go toe-to-toe and beat their title rivals. As has become the case of late, the game against Italy on the second weekend of action will go a long way to defining their campaign.
  • Odds: Scotland are 28/1 to win the tournament outright with Bet365 and 11/4 to pick up the wooden spoon once again.

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.

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

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.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Football

  • Cricket

  • Rugby

    • Days
    • Hrs
    • Mins
    • Secs

    F1 - Australian GP

  • OtherLive >>

    Darts - Premier League
    Golf - Houston Open
    Snooker - China Open
    Tennis - Miami Open