Where to start with this, the most historic and longest standing fixture in the Rugby Union Calendar? Emotions always run high when this wonderful fixture comes round, the pulse involuntarily accelerates and despite the recent relative one-sidedness, the rivalry stirs the blood every time.

England arrive still buzzing from that historic thrashing of the mighty All Blacks, 38-21. Twickenham will be buzzing on Saturday with the thought of the start of a potential England Grand Slam, massively raised expectations and a fixture which England have not lost at home since 1983.

Much has rightly been made of the All Blacks condition, they arrived on the back of a virus in the camp all week, and it was one step too far at the fag end of a season which had run since April. They were nowhere near their best, with even Dan Carter's boot off colour, yet equalled England's tally of three tries.

But despite former Lions Coach and Scots international Jim Telfer's explosive comments about English arrogance, a win against the All Blacks is exactly what it says on the tin. The World Champions were put to the sword at Twickenham, England were magnificent and even though they lived on scraps at times, they tackled with venom and used their possession devastatingly.

Don't be surprised if it emerges post match that Telfer's article was posted on the England dressing room wall on Saturday. I would if i was England coach, Stuart Lancaster.

Scotland meanwhile were ending a three match mini series by losing to Tonga in Aberdeen, and as a result also their English coach, Andy Robinson, a humiliating contrast to England on the crest of a wave. It hurts greatly for your Scottish blogger to say it, but that's the bare facts as I see it.

So the Scots come to Twickenham under a new coach and with expectations at an all time low. England can expect far greater possession than they had that famous autumn day. England 'blanked' the All Blacks on the scoreboard in the first half, so excuses of viruses carry less weight immediately.

The England side, though yet to be named, is reasonably predictable, Tuilagi misses out along with prop Corbisiero through injury but the rest is likey to be players who either started or came on against the All Blacks.



I believe this is where the game will be won by England. Mighty powerful and even though the Scots have named almost their biggest available front five, the pressure from the English will prove decisive. England will kick into the corners and look to disrupt the Scottish lineout, forcing scrums. Dougie Hall replaces Ross Ford at hooker, Hall's first cap for six years, but his throwing has always been suspect.
The Scots need to keep it simple to the big men at the front in the line out, particularly when under the cosh. Geoff Parling (a cross between an Aussie cricket captain and a former England centre perhaps in name anyway!) is a menace in the England front five and the pressure will be coming through from him in particular at the set pieces.

Possible punting areas emanating from the front five, expect a Scottish yellow card as their scrum creaks, and maybe a penalty try at some stage.


Scotland fare much better here, and the back row of Strokosh, Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie are a destructive unit, they will feast on any English handling errors and turnover a fair bit of enemy ball. It's a courageous move to switch the talented Laidlaw from 10 to 9, meaning Rauridh Jackson slots in at 10. They will come under pressure from the likely England trio of Wood, Morgan and Robshaw. Youngs will play at 9 for England and his ability to control a game behind a likely winning pack will count for much.
The loss of Tuilagi however may mean a reshuffle to the England back line and Toby Flood might well be switched to the centre area, a role many English supporters would prefer to see him in anyway.


Matt Scott and Sean Lamont will need to come up fast on their English counterparts to stifle space in the centres, but that risks leaving space out wide for the likes of Ashton and Goode to exploit. The Scots combination looks vulnerable and inexperience may well count heavily against them in this area.
The physical presence of debutant Billy Twelvetrees for England and his boot will add to English options.

What England mustn't do though is kick long without finding touch, because the Scots wingers and full back possess terrific attacking potential which might go underestimated. Stuart Hogg's talents are well known, while Tim Visser, weak in defence, is picked more for his blistering finishing ability and the former Crusaders winger Sean Maitland has made a big impression with Glasgow Warriors since arriving in November.

That does encourage me to think Scotland are capable of scoring more tries this season, something that has blighted them previously.


England should overwhelmingly dominate here and it would be no surprise to see both the scrum and lineout create havoc in Scots ranks. Brian Moore, the former England hooker turned broadcaster, recently suggested it is almost worth attacking sides knocking on if going nowhere near the opposition line, to force scrums close to their weaker opponents line. Moore (for once some might argue!!) has a valid point, and England will be happy to force the Scots to scrummage in that area as often as possible.


I expect scores from mistakes, turnovers and broken play on Saturday. If the underfoot conditions are tacky, all the more so. Ultimately England's power will mean they will get more chances and I expect them to win comfortably, (not rocket science but saying it how I think it is), but don't be surprised if, despite history indicating otherwise, this is a points fest.
The Scots will look to take tap penalties quickly, and play fast and loose which could serve them well, but in these days of multiple substitutions, tired English legs can easily be replaced.
The Scots may have an edge in the kicking game, which will enable them to gain some decent field position, but I doubt their set piece will mean they make it count.


The maul is less a part of the game, but i still expect England to use it at first phase after the scrum to rumble towards the Scots line. Fewer phases now though are allowed and that means less stress close to your own line before the ref's shout of 'use it' brings temporary relief to defences.
The Scots will look for quick ruck ball all over the field but mustn't over-commit and concede penalties or leave space around the fringes.
The aforementioned lineouts will be important, and the pressure will be on Dougie Hall's throwing in particular. If England persist in throwing to the tail, however, the Scots may well be able to win turnovers as well. I would not be surprised if the lineout is a 'mess' on Saturday for both sides.


Knowing the referee is part of the modern game. Ability to pick up on his 'leanings' vitally important. Ireland's Alain Rolland is vastly experienced and unlikely to allow the 'onfield referees' on either side to tell him what to do. I'd say he's a renowned disciplinarian though and not frightened to show the yellow card for relatively minor infringements. I don't expect him to allow much leeway to the players, especially early on, but he is not red card happy either. He can blow up quite quickly, so expect a surfeit of set pieces. That should favour England, but he will likely also give Scotland some leeway to take quick plays of the ball at tap penalties for example. At the ruck Scotland must be very wary of going in too aggressively to retain possession and a collapsed scrum near their own line will be punished fully.


At the time of updating on Friday still a limited number of markets, I'm sure closer to kick off there will be many more available, and in-play as well.

One or more yellow cards is a shocking 4/9 with Hills, so the better bet must be Exactly one at 9/4.
16/20 point win for England is a tasty 5/1.
Ally Hogg, Scotland's dangerous attacking full back, is 6/1 to score a try anytime and that is just too big.

There's no penalty try market yet, I will request one if it doesn't appear reasonably quickly. Depending on price it might be my biggest bet of the match.
EDIT THE EDIT! Hills tell me a penalty try will be available shortly online at 4/1. i will be taking that.

I'd expect second half to be higher scoring, and would anticipate England pulling away in the second period. 10/1 a draw half time is not as daft as it might seem, (small stake!) often in 6N games teams will swop penalties in a cautious first half. That applies to most games in the tournament.

Prices are with Hills, do shop around you might well be able to beat these!

Get the beers in and sit back ready for a Great Season. I will hopefully preview a fair number of matches during the season as time permits.