Any match involving England is difficult to predict these days, and there’s a general feeling that this came could be exceedingly dull.
Hopefully it won’t be, but Martin Johnson’s England selection doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Where are the game-breakers? Who would you back to set the game on fire with a dazzling run, or a huge carry? It’s a conservative selection, and that’s probably the style with which England will approach the game.
The players have looked bereft of ideas in attack, and I imagine the name of the game will be not to lose the ball, with phase after phase of slow-paced mini-rucks, endless side to side passing with no penetration, and then the odd box kick when there are no holes opening up.
I can’t find any inspiration in the pack, and less so with Lewis Moody on the bench. Out wide, we have a group of players that could be half-decent, but they are mostly off-form and a disappointment. The bench is more exciting, but it seems wrong to hope for some early injuries and the injection of life through Ben Foden, Ben Youngs and Courtney Lawes.
Scotland aren’t hugely exciting either. They are staring at the Wooden Spoon, and a defeat at Murrayfield would leave them with a record of Played 4 Lost 4, which is not what Andy Robinson had in mind after they beat Australia in the autumn.
Again, there don’t seem to be too many players that could light up the game, although Nick De Luca’s return to the international setup could be interesting. Whilst the back row has been industrious and fairly effective, the backs have lacked the cutting edge to make use of possession.
If England play how I expect them to, they won’t get a huge amount of ball, and whereas Ireland took their chances whenever they arose, I wouldn’t back the Scots to be so ruthless in their finishing and I’m backing England to be marginally better.
I hope it’s not a dour affair, and I hope that both sides play with ambition. A defeat would not be great for either side, but they’ll do themselves a huge favour if they look to run with the ball, rather than stick to a defensive mindset – even if they do lose.
My SportGuru prediction is England by 11.