Key Clash Preview: Scotland v England

Date: 4th February 2012
Time: 17:00 kick off
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: George Clancy

Scotland:

No doubt looking to settle a score in this match and make a positive statement about Scottish Rugby Andy Robinson has named a strong side for this encounter. There are 8 changes to the side from the one that ran out against England in New Zealand. His selections appear to be more about experience, thus countering the inexperience of the England squad. David Denton earns his second cap ahead of Sale Sharks Richie Vernon, whom many expected to see in the side with Kelly Brown ruled out. And Edinburgh winger Lee Jones earns his first cap, surrounded by seasoned backs Rory Lamont and Nick De Luca to provide balance. Hopefully Jones will be able to inject more ingenuity into Scotland’s back line. Because the game is on a Saturday Euan Murray starts at tight head, a move which should bring some strength to the front row. Dan Parks and Chris Cusiter form the pairing at fly and scrum half, with Parks’ selection raising a few eyebrows amongst fans.

England:

New players, new coaches, new England. It’s taken the most cynical of souls (Woodward) to criticise how England have gone about their business so far in the build up to this year’s Six Nations. 2011 saw England win a Six Nations Championship, end the calendar year with 10 wins out of 13 matches, and reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. As with any four year cycle, the squad has been given a update, with the elder players departed and new blood coming in. What matters now is how the exciting talents of Owen Farrell, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw and Brad Barritt integrate. It starts with no harder test than travelling to Murrayfield, a place shorn of English success since 2004, when Sir Clive Woodward was still coach.

What to Expect:

This match will either be a high-scoring try fest for both sides, or a war of attrition. If it is the former, we shall see lots of fast passing, and quick rugby, as the ball is passed around the field more in order for both teams to score tries, I also think each will concede a few from this style of play. If it is the latter then I think it will come down to the kicking more than the rugby, as both teams will endure a physical encounter. In the latter, Scotland fans will be thanking Robinson for playing Dan Parks as his goal kicking is usually on point.

The party line from Stuart Lancaster is that England will have the chance to express themselves, with a solar system’s worth of greater dynamism and intent. Failing that, there is the narrow direct approach of Plan B. The weather looks set to be sublime (!), so if Owen Farrell can give England a big enough lead with the boot early on, England will try and cut loose.

All Eyes On: David Denton & Phil Dowson

Edinburgh’s recent good form has no doubt played a part in Denton’s selection for the squad. Earning his first cap in the World Cup warm up match against Ireland in August last year, the 21year old No. 8 (who turns 22 the day after the match) has played a big part in the Edinburgh set up, becoming a key part of getting the forward ball. Something that he will be looking to bring to the game on Saturday in order to break through the English defence. He played very well against Ireland in the summer of 2011, and this will be a very different game. Denton has the ability to be a great player, and in this match we will see if he can step up his club game and bring it into the international arena.

Coincidentally, Denton’s opposite man at number 8 was arguably the surprise name on the team sheet. Competing with Ben Morgan for a starting spot, Dowson has bided his time waiting for an international break, having spent six seasons with the England Saxons, many as captain. Now at the age of 30, he gets his chance, eager to make a positive impact in a match that he has been waiting an eternity for. Dowson’s strengths lie not just in his power, but also in the subtlety of his hands around the fringes.

Head to Head: Sean Lamont vs. Owen Farrell

60 caps versus uncapped. Lamont is a utility back for the Scotland squad, but is most comfortable on the wing, so is playing just out of his most comfortable position, but this is something he is used to. Farrell is a fly half, but feels comfortable playing at centre as well, and he will be starting at inside centre on Saturday. Lamont is far more experienced than Farrell and so will be used to the pressure of high stakes games like these. Lamont’s weakness comes with his decision-making, far too often he decides to run with the ball, leaving him isolated, slows the advance down, and has resulted in turnover ball. This should be an interesting battle where we see if experience and predictability triumphs over the fresh new talent. On paper there really should be no contest, on Saturday, well we shall see.

Having ice in your veins is one of sport’s oldest clichés, but never has it been better applied than when discussing the temperament of Owen Farrell. For evidence of his composure, re-watch last year’s Premiership final, when as a 19 year old he landed the winning shot at goal. Lamont may have the experience and will look to intimate Farrell physically, but the youngster will not let him without a fight.

Last result: England 16 -12 Scotland, 1st October 2011, New Zealand. It was this result that saw Scotland fall to third place in the group and fail to qualify for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.

Weather: Typically Scottish! Hovering around 5° chance of rain or snow flurries, southwesterly wind of 17mph with gusts of up to 31mph.

Prediction:

Genuinely torn on this decision, as I think it is going to be a close match. One part of me is saying Scotland and another part is saying England. Given the fact that the Scots have the home advantage, and Murrayfield with a sell out crowd is always a tough place to go. Not to mention the fact that there is a score to be settled, will give the home side that extra edge against the visitors. I am going to stick my neck out and go with Scotland, by 3. CL

No win at Murrayfield since 2004 suggests that even with experience England struggle to grab a win over the border. Scotland’s failure to score tries in their last three matches, of which one opponent was Georgia, suggests it might be easier than expected. The midfield combination of Parks, Lamont and de Luca hardly screams creativity, but who knows how the Saracens duo of Farrell and Brad Barritt will cope with the pressure. The head says Scotland. The heart, England by 5. BC

by Christine Lester & Ben Coles

8 thoughts on “Key Clash Preview: Scotland v England

  1. This match will either be a high-scoring try fest for both sides, or a war of attrition…… What? When has Scotland vs England (at Murrayfield) ever been a high scoring fast paced game?

  2. England i think will lose this one, socts are too well drilled and know each other better.
    also playing at home….

  3. No one knows what to expect from england. Scotland have an experienced side, but not one that’s going to light the field up in terms of creativity. I doubt they’re going to end their try drought on saturday. The selection of Dan Parks at fly half is very telling, he is going to be used for his accurate kicking to put pressure on the young english team. Any errors and he will convert them into scottish points. Its going to be aggressive and direct against the auls enemy. The scots seem to have the pressure on them to win,especially after how bitter Andy Robinson appears after Scotland failed to reach the quarter finals of the world-cup since the tournaments inception. England on the other hand play the role of the mysterious stranger, no one knows what they’re capable of. The pack looks set to have plenty of grunt and graft about it with the selections of Palmer and Botha in the second row and Dowson and Robshaw in the back row. Dowson and Robshaw will be relied upon to provide quick ball and the go forward they bring to their respective teams in the premiership. They are both consistent performers at domestic level but are largely unproven in the heat of a full international. The back line is the most unpredictable part of the team. Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt have been solid at Sarries and won’t be to far from their comfort zone with Hodgson filling the ten shirt. They don’t scream creativity either, but unlike Lamont, Farrell is much more comfortable in the second distributor role.
    Its going to be a close game, probably decided by which team begins to dominate with their pack first. Scotland have the edge in this department down to the experience and the greater cohesion and familiarity that experience and game time brings.
    If england hit the ground running they could seal it by about five, but if they get locked into an un-front battle, scotland have the experience and Parks’s boot to gind it out by three.

  4. The Scots are dealing with being favourites. The English are humbled but with nothing to lose. The last match saw Scotland at their best and England at their worst, and guess what, England won anyway. I don’t expect any different tomorrow. Dan Parks will be good for 20 minutes and then a couple of runs at him from Brad and it’ll be game over. The blokes a coward and Scotland run on underdog bravado against England. This time they don’t have it and England will outscore them 2 tries to none with only a few indisciplined penalties flattering the scots. I’m calling a scoreline circa 20-12. Poetic.

  5. Nice one Revis, that’s more like it. Come on boys, we finally have something to look forward to here. For the first time since 2003 I’m genuinely excited about our selections and team philosophy. Of course they need to learn how to play together, but all teams are going to be rusty for the first couple of rounds. The Scots being favorites is just perfect, and thanks Andy Robinson for giving them that extra bit of needle to get our boys fired up.

    We’ve all been calling for a team like this for many years and now we have it. I am so flipping excited to see players like Botha, Robshaw, Dowson, Farrell, Barritt. Even Hodgson…who had me screaming at the TV that he must never wear the shirt again many years ago, is just what we need for this situation. On neutral territory I think this team would take Scotland apart. At Murrayfield on a wet and windy day it will be tighter, but something like 20-12 is about right in my mind. Big performances from Robshaw, Hodgson and Ashton (will score at least once). Can’t flipping wait.

    1. Totally agree with you Revis & Mat. Finally a bit of confidence and swagger from the fans! So what if England haven’t won up there in a while – doesn’t mean you have to accept it as fact.

      England should beat Scotland. If we don’t fair enough, but let’s deal with that then. Too many platitudes being delicately wafted around at the moment for my liking. It’s as if Robinson’s “arrogance” accusation – and it is just an accusation, he has no decent grounds to back it up – has been established as fact and everyone associated with England rugby must now be humble, meek and apologetic, lest they prove him right. Well, guess what, arrogance is a brilliant attribute to have in sport, so piss off Andy Robinson.

      So it’s going to be shit weather? So what? It’s not as if England has been bathing in heat recently is it. And brilliant call by Stuart Lancaster, training in the grim and inhospitable wastelands of The North. He/they have effectively neutered that particular advantage already.

      Shit weather? Just means Parksy’s going to kick the bloody thing even more than he was going to anyway. So the defence plan England were probably working on just needs to be tweaked another 5%. Run it back at him, run him over a couple of times, send a couple of flankers up his channel early on and suffocate him.

      If England win by any less than five points difference I will be disappointed.

      If I sound cocky, I’m not usually, I’ve just had enough of all this misplaced sense of some kind of need for collective self-flagellation.

      Get stuck in there England. Smash them!! Come OOOOOONNNNNNNN!

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