There will be a sense of what might have been at Twickenham on Saturday. Two teams for whom the stench of defeat will still linger, keen to put their last experience behind them as they push on towards Rugby World Cup 2015.
England went in to their top-of-the-table clash with Ireland in Dublin last week with the Grand Slam a real possibility. The team, attacking with verve not seen since the famous win over New Zealand in 2013, had overcome the significant Welsh hurdle on the opening day before a try-filled blitz against Italy in Round 2. However, England just couldn’t get going against the Irish, in no small part down to the tenacity of the opposition defence, condemning them to defeat.
Scotland looked for a long time like they would overcome the Italian challenge last time out, despite trailing in the try count for most of the contest. Greg Laidlaw’s kicking was consistent and it seemed that it would be enough for Vern Cotter’s side. However, the last minute penalty try condemned the Scots to a third consecutive 2015 RBS 6 Nations defeat.
So the Calcutta Cup match has a redemptive air about it. Stuart Lancaster will be keen to get England back on track as soon as possible, with the possibility of points difference being a crucial factor in the outcome of the tournament if Wales beat Ireland beforehand on Saturday. That will mean a performance of ruthlessness in attack and perfection at the back will be in order – every penalty within kicking range serving as a severe dent to Red Rose hopes.
A first win of the competition was Scotland’s for the majority of their match with Italy before a late yellow card and the crucial penalty try. The two previous outings – impressive performances against France and Ireland – had given hope to the passionate Murrayfield support. The Italian defeat will have extinguished much of that hope but the team will be looking to make amends against the Auld enemy on Saturday and restore some pride for the Scottish fans North of the border.
England have dominated this match in recent years. The last time Scotland emerged victorious was in 2008, when a 15-9 win at Murrayfield beat an England side then being led by Brian Ashton. Since then it has been six 6 Nations games, five English victories and a draw. You have to go back all the way to 1983 for the last Scottish victory at Twickenham, so those backing a blue victory would require the history books to be turned upside down.
England will be hoping that they go in to this match buoyed by the news that they are still in with a good chance of winning the championship. News of an Ireland victory will change the mood somewhat though, and could even pave the way for a famous Scottish triumph.
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