There has been a lot of focus in the buildup to this game on 1983, when a Scotland XV last won at Twickenham. It was 34 years ago, and I was very young indeed. Most if not all of the Scotland team weren’t born.
Here’s what they aren’t looking at, though – that team was filled with vintage names, but they finished second bottom in the 5 Nations, having lost to everyone apart from England, who went on to finish bottom.
Vintage players, not a vintage year for either side.
That performance was a brief fillip in a poor run of results that season. It was, of course, followed up by the Grand Slam in 1984 by many of the same players. Gregor Townsend might fancy following a win at Twickenham up with a Grand Slam the next year, but purely in terms of this game Scotland need to look elsewhere for inspiration. Vern Cotter has said that counting a solitary win against England as a successful season is a mindset to get away from.
Our lads are in a different place, having won 2 from 3. Certainly, the mindset of the England team going for a record run of victories would be different.
For me the source of inspiration should be 1990, regardless of the venue. That was a much higher pressure match with more than bragging rights at stake – in which the Scots were still given little chance but still emerged the victors.
We’re not sure if this is a championship-winning Scotland side – we still need results to swing our way much as the next good side in 1999 side did, which is something the true winning teams don’t have to rely on. What we do know is that this is about as talented a team as we’ve had since those great teams. But wouldn’t we rather they were remembered as a golden generation rather than for one-off results?
Good times are ahead people, but they might not start just yet.
So with that in mind, you can pick and mix from the choices below to build a match preview to your own liking. Team news is below as well.
Setting the Scene
The most insightful, tactically aware and best-prepared coach in world rugby is:
a) Eddie Jones
b) Vern Cotter
c) Rob Howley
c) Sir Clive Woodward would never have allowed this to happen
Warren Gatland is:
a) Starting to take notice of Scotland
b) Going through a midlife crisis
c) Still picking Alun-Wyn as captain, just get over it
The Arrogant English
a) Woefully ignorant of the Scottish threat and in for a hammering, even at home
b) Already focusing on the game against Ireland for the Grand Slam
c) Trying to work out how you drop the captain
d) Completely aware of the Scottish threat, taking it seriously and preparing accordingly given a few iffy performances so far in the tournament
Meanwhile the English press are:
a) Already focusing on the game against Ireland for the Grand Slam
b) Printing up “greatest team ever apart from the All Blacks” t-shirts
c) Bricking it in case Scotland turn up and it’s a decent game so they’re printing semi-decent pieces on the talent within Scottish ranks in order to appear balanced
d) Fairly admiring of several in the Scottish ranks including Finn, the Gray boys and Stuart Hogg (exception: S Jones who still picks Kearney as Lions FB)
Eddie Jones is:
a) taking all the pressure on himself to avoid putting it on his players who are “world-class” but misfiring
b) making it up as he goes along
c) cunningly posting fake team plans to confuse the press
England team: Mike Brown, Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Dylan Hartley (capt), Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, James Haskell, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Wood, Billy Vunipola, Danny Care, Ben Te’o, Anthony Watson
It’s a very strong team and those Vunipola boys add plenty of power on the bench. If you hadn’t seen them play against Italy then you’d definitely have strong reasons for worry.
But it is a team built on size and power. Is that a flaw?
The Chippy Scots
From their swanky training base at Oriam, Vern Cotter and Scotland are:
a) Planning a bunch of practical jokes to play on Dylan Hartley in order to cause an implosion, possibly involving leaping out of cupboards
b) Going down to Twickenham with the aim of a 4 try bonus point win
c) Probably going to lose by 7-12 points
d) Completely aware of the English threat, form and winning record, taking it seriously and preparing accordingly for a venue where they haven’t won in 34 years
Stories in the Scottish press are:
a) Focusing on the fact that none of the current team was born in 1983
b) Piling the pressure hard on England as overwhelming favourites
c) Trying not to jinx anything so picking England as winners
d) Hiding the fact that we all feel that a win is definitely possible if we can play the territory well but not wanting to lose underdog status
Finn Russell is:
a) Lions standoff if Jonny Sexton gets injured
b) Lions standoff if Owen Farrell gets injured
c) Too mercurial even to get on the plane
d) A cheeky chappy with a famous ex-girlfriend, so pass the sweeties
Scotland team: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray, Jonny Gray, John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Ross Ford, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, Cornell Du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Mark Bennett
One thing is for sure, our bench is going to have to work twice as hard to make any sort of impact. England aren’t going to worry too much about what’s thrown at them from there, provided they can survive the starting XV from the off.
It’s some arena for Cornell du Preez to get his first cap and equally hard to see the back row replacement not being required at any point. And Sean Maitland is unlucky to miss out off the bench. It may have been a close selection between him and Bennett who has a good game vs the Dragons to thank – and he played pretty well the last time he appeared at Twickenham in that quarter final…
Kickoff is 4pm Saturday, the game is live on ITV, and the referee Mathieu Raynal of France. Our coverage this weekend will come from Cammy and Iain. Enjoy!