KO 5.00 at Twickenham Stadium
Saturday 16th March 2019
Live on ITV1
Starting with something positive; some encouraging stats around Scotland’s chances in this game should really be the aim here.
This is Twickenham though.
The graveyard of so many Scottish ambitions. Shatterer of tartan dreams even when the Auld Enemy
This will be the dark blues’ 49th trip to the cabbage patch to take on England. The overall record reads W4; D5; L39, with the shortest gap between victories being 12 years:
Scotland’s wins against England at Twickenham:
20th March 1926
19th March 1938
20th March 1971
5th March 1983
- there have been 16 defeats and 1 draw;
- Scotland have averaged just 1 try per game;
- the average score has been 31-14 in the home side’s favour;
- the Scots have only finished within a converted try of England in 3 of those defeats.
Add in a plague of injuries and lack of momentum and it’s beginning to look like a Scotland win is a million-to-one chance – but it might just work. Because of course a million-to-one chance succeeds nine times out of ten…
England Scouting Report
England have been incredibly effective at securing their own ball at the breakdown. Across 334 rucks so far in the tournament, they have lost just 3. That’s comfortably the best in this season’s Six Nations.
Add in their slightly more average performance on the other side of the ball – turning over their opponents’ rucks 11 times – and they are +8 on possession at the breakdown. Again, this is the best in the tournament.
The English pack is certainly sizeable but it also takes speed to the point of contact plus excellent technique to continually win the ball so efficiently. Scotland were able to make a mess of England’s rucks last season but they will find it much more difficult to slow or steal possession this time round.
Possession is not a prerequisite
Eddie Jones’ side have, by some distance, the lowest percentage possession among the six competing countries. England have averaged just 40% of the game with the ball. Yet they’ve parlayed that into 19 tries and 144 points – far more than any of the other sides.
Key to that has been making the most of what little possession they have had. England’s kick and contest or contain game has often seen them working off turnover ball in good positions where it only takes one break and relatively little time to score.
That’s shown in the clean break stats where the English have made a CB for every 10 carries. (Compare and contrast with the very different possession-based style of Ireland who only make a line break for every 20 carries.) Scotland’s defence will need to be extremely wary of giving any space to English backs or forwards.
There are danger men throughout the English line-up but even among such company Billy Vunipola’s numbers stand out. The giant number 8 is hugely influential on England’s ability to get on the front foot and play the efficient, controlled game they desire.
While undoubtedly the focus is on his carrying one of the reasons the Saracens’ man has been able to push himself ahead of other big bashers is his broad skillset. Glossing over his kick from hand against Italy(!) it’s his passing and decision-making that are real points of difference.
Across this season’s Six Nations he has been the dominant figure in England’s pack. From just 12% of the minutes played by English forwards Vunipola junior has made 26% of the carries and 31% of the passes. It’s that distribution Scotland will need to be wary of. Focus too many resources on bringing Billy down and he’ll take the opportunity to move the point of contact so his teammates can find the spaces that have been left.
- After four rounds England have conceded the fewest penalties in the tournament (24). Scotland have conceded the most (39).
- They have kicked more than any other team in the championship, averaging 34 per game.
- All that kicking and lack of possession have left the English needing to make 892 tackles – 118 more than anyone else in the Six Nations.
This will be the 10th time the two sides have met in London for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
L L L L L L L L L
The most recent meeting at Twickenham (honestly – don’t press play on the ‘highlights’ below. It’s just not worth putting yourself through it):
England 61 – 21 Scotland
I had a look. There are no positives in the numbers. Let’s move on.
Cammy’s infamous 0 player ratings from that game are here.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee 1: Jerome Garces (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
With only two previous Scotland games behind him it’s hard to infer too much from Mr. Williams’ refereeing tendencies. A typical Kiwi official would be good from a Scottish persepective. The dark blues have won the penalty count in 5 of their last 7 matches with NZ refs (and probably more importantly they’ve earned 6 victories out of 7 from those fixtures!)
As has been common in this season’s Six Nations one of the new generation of officials (Mr. Williams) is being assisted by one of the veterans (M. Garces). With one eye on the post-RWC period Scotland need to be getting used to seeing a lot more of the likes of Mr. Williams and fellow Six Nations’ debutants Luke Pearce and Nic Berry. The era of Nigel Owens, Wayne Barnes and their ilk looks like it is drawing to a close.
Scotland’s previous games with Mr. Williams in charge:
- 2017 – beat Italy (N)
Penalties: 26 (For 17 – 9 Against)
Cards: 2 YCs for Italy
- 2018 – beat Argentina (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 7 – 10 Against)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.