Scotland Six Nations 2020: Round 2 Predictions

By Graeme Acheson of Rugby4Cast

Well, that wasn’t so bad was it? 

It was incredibly frustrating to not get the win in the end, but in the grand scheme of things frustration and annoyance rank far higher in the Scottish spectrum of rugby emotions than utter despair. As I wrote previously, “the best case scenario would clearly be a win in Dublin, but given the likelihood of that is low (16% according to the Algorithm), a solid performance and avoiding a hammering would be the next best thing. Something to build on heading into round 2.”

Scotland did that and more, I’d say. They arguably should have won the game. They definitely could have. And it certainly has given us something to work on going forwards into round 2.

By the numbers, this was Scotland’s third-best ever performance in Dublin in the Six Nations.

Round 2

Scotland play England in the next round at Murrayfield. This is now a huge match, for both sides. It was already big, Scotland having held the Calcutta Cup for two years – firstly through a comprehensive win in Murrayfield in 2018, and subsequently through whatever you call what happened last year in Twickenham. Regardless of any goings on in between, the English will be very keen to win back the Calcutta Cup and put Scotland back in their place.

But England have now suffered two fairly comprehensive defeats in a row – South Africa in the World Cup final and now France. Add into the mix Saracens domestic worries and England are in a tight spot. A loss to Scotland this weekend would be three in a row and the Six Nations title would effectively be beyond reach for the favourites. A critical media will be calling for heads, and the prospect of Ireland and Wales visiting Twickenham will only enhance, not ease, the worries. This is a big game for England, in lots of ways.

Tournament chances if the above results come to pass this weekend. A Scotland win would effectively end English hopes of the Six Nations title. 

SIDE NOTE: I know those scores don’t match the predictions. If I’d been thinking clearly I would have entered them into the calculation. Effectively it was simulating wins for Scotland and Ireland but no 4 try bonus points, with England and Wales gaining a losing bonus point. France get the full 5 point bonus point win over Italy.

However, it’s a big game for Scotland too and England are a very good side, even with all their woes. Many are calling Scotland to win – perhaps rightfully – but being favourites has never been Scotland’s forte. The players will know they can win, and in doing so they can put their greatest rivals to the sword causing them all sorts of turmoil. But if they are not on point then England will punish them. Mentally that will create pressure and expectation. It is likely that whomever can deal with this mental pressure best will win the match.

Tournament Implications

As mentioned in the previous article, this match could really make or break Scotland’s Six Nations. Realistically, two wins would be a reasonable return for Scotland, and getting that win in early would relieve a lot of pressure on the squad and management. With the flying French visiting in round three, and a final round match in Cardiff, through a certain lense it is difficult to see where that other win might come from. That is also assuming, of course, that we win in Rome.

Should Scotland beat England at home, then I’d like to contend they would also have every chance against France. France have had a tough time in Murrayfield recently – they’ve lost the last three – and one good match, however impressive, is not indicative of a complete turnaround yet.

The Algorithm’s predictions for round 2

The Prediction

The Algorithm has England by 6, but gives Scotland a 1 in 3 chance of winning. The Algorithm works by calculating a bespoke set of rankings for international sides, as well as looking at scoring patterns in historic matches, to create a prediction for each game. The accuracy is relatively high (over 80% in 2019 international matches, with an average score difference of under 10 points) so England by 6 is not an unlikely prediction.

However, it is not perfect (shock admission) and when looking at the output it is best to consider it alongside the limitations. There are certain things we could take into account, but we haven’t successfully integrated yet, and there are certain things that it will never (practically speaking) be able to account for. You will have to judge the effect of these yourselves.

Player selection is a clear example of the former. It is a fairly obvious statement to make that the players selected will have an impact on the outcome of the match. However, for various reasons (and I’m happy to explain them but it might take a while…), it has proven difficult to code into The Algorithm. We’re working on it, trust me. For now though, you will have to judge how the current squads are performing compared to the average strength of the squads over the past couple of years.

It’s early days, but judging on one match, Scotland looked better than normal and England worse. England also have a raft of injuries. Tuilagi, Slade, Cokanisiga, Nowell and Watson are all regular squad members, yet all are out with injury. Scotland, unusually, have almost no injuries and barring Finn Russells omission are at full strength. And his replacement Hastings looked great. So, add a few points to the Scotland tally perhaps…

The Algorithm also cannot take into account the emotion and psychological impact of a game. The knowledge and history of Scotland v England is something that would be almost impossible to code in. How would you quantify the impact of previous games on the national psyche, and the subsequent feedback into the national side? How can you quantify the effect of Saracens domestic troubles on the England side? A near thousand year rivalry? A baying Murrayfield crowd that can sense blood in the water? Perhaps another few points to Scotland there then.

3 years in a row?

Is that enough to take the Algorithm’s prediction of England by 6 to a Scotland win? I’ll leave you to judge for yourselves, but I think it could be. Scotland will need to take their opportunities – something they didn’t do against Ireland – and stop England from scoring early. If they can keep it tight, tick the scoreboard over and get the crowd involved then they will have every chance. 

It’s going to be great. I’m nervous already and I can’t wait. Good luck everyone.

Visit www.rugby4cast.com for more predictions, histories and form guides updated as the tournament progresses.

Created using the combined powers of the Scottish Rugby Blog team.

27 comments on “Scotland Six Nations 2020: Round 2 Predictions

  1. TeamCam on

    We’re missing wee Darcy G, too. I think those predictions look pretty fair. It would be a major boon to win today, as it would have been last week, but I can’t say I’m confident.

  2. FF on

    Expect a tight England win in poor conditions. I think ultimately they’ll be better at the dogfight and trench warfare the game might descend into. I hope to be pleasantly surprised as a win would be a real launchpad for the team to recover after the dismal World Cup.

    Slightly fear we may be outgunned and could have done with Crosbie in the bench in place of Harris. On the other hand this doesn’t look like a vintage England team and it’s a good time to be playing them so there is an opportunity there.

  3. Tasmanian tiger on

    I’m hopeful of another good performance and a victory but I have a sneaking suspicion England will win comfortably. I note the article suggests 2 victories in this campaign would be a reasonable return. I beg to differ. After the last year anything less than 3 victories and Townsend has to go. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • Graeme R4C on

      Yeah, I agree somewhat. I was just trying to look at where those wins might come from, and if it was reasonable to expect them. With Ireland and Wales away, it means we have to beat England and France at home realistically. 3 wins is always going to be a tough ask for Scotland at the moment!

  4. CSC on

    Are the Scottish forwards wearing lead boots? I’d have these guys doing sprint training every morning at 5am.

  5. Peter on

    OK guys it time to start playing the basics correctly. The line out is useless and yet again there does not seem to be a game plan for these conditions. Hastings is OK (only OK) but always seems to be out of position.

  6. Warks Scot on

    How much possession can Scotland give away?!!? I know the weather is crap but can the team not get 10 metres with ball in hand? I fear for the second half playing into the wind

  7. Fraser on

    Line out, breakdown, basic errors – don’t seem to have worked on anything from last week.

    Horrendous conditions but if we are behind playing with the wind we are going to be in a lot of trouble in the second half.

  8. RuggersB on

    Why are our lineout throws soo bad?…F Brown seems just as bad as MCinally at it.
    England aren’t even throwing straight…and yet we get penalized??
    Considering we get touted as an attacking side….we aint doing much to justify that tag. We should be swapping Jones out for Hutchinson. Our back row should be good …but Watson just seems to get lost in these matches…Id switch things up Bradbury at 6 Ritchie at 7 Haining at 8.

  9. RuggersB on

    Crikey…never mind a ‘dynamic’ hooker….can we just find one who can throw a lineout ball?… how much possession have we thrown to england??…rediculous.

  10. Not rocket science on

    This England team is useless. Gave every opportunity. Nothing to do with the weather, Scotland are a confused mess from front to back. Cannot execute schoolboy drills, wrong personnel and no mental strength. This has to be the final nail in GT’s coffin, and any of the senior players standing beside him should pipe down. Townsend OUT.

    • Not rocket science on

      Zero leadership too – who was captain? Multiple times backs should have called for it. Bizarre decisions all the way through, even Price’s kick at the end. Home advantage and looked like rank amateurs. GT really has to go. Where is Ritchie Gray, where is Finn Russell, where is MacInally? What are the tactics and where is anyone who is going to step up and show him the door.

  11. Fraser on

    Bizarre game – I don’t think you can take that much from it except we really need to sort our line out.

    That’s 2 games in a row Townsend has seemed very reluctant to bring on subs – massive error in my opinion.

    Second half was overall better, we lost it in the first.

    Forwards disappointing, backs didn’t really see the ball.

  12. Warks Scot on

    As said above, conditions rubbish but what a shambles by Scotland – no brain, no brawn. Can’t win line out even if it’s there to catch, so many knock ons, penalties etc. Please just get the basics right; keep it tight yes but stop giving the ball away, surely not that difficult.

  13. csc on

    The weather conditions were the same for both sides; so that’s no excuse. Second game that Scotland has lost because their forwards got trounced – in fact they didn’t even seem to want to challenge at the breakdown. If the coaching team cannot help the players fix errors and improve their tactics, then either pick others players or find better coaches. Guess which would be easier to find.

  14. FF on

    I think the level of criticism here is a bit out of hand. The conditions were atrocious and both sides had difficulty executing anything. Yes our line out was poor and we failed to capitalise when we had opportunities, but we lack the power game england have and this was very much a game for forwards.

    I’m not saying there is nothing to be disappointed about but you can’t really separate the weather from the mistakes that littered play from both sides.

  15. Peter on

    Lack the power game? We don’t have a game we make progress into the oppositions last quarter and then we look round and wonder what to do, and nobody knows – oh apart form the guy who has been left out of the side. You know the guy who can make much out of nothing. The guy who because of a petulant coach will not play any part in this six nations and possibly any future ones while Clownsend is the coach.

    Perhaps the Chair would like to share his £933,000 in getting a decent coach and supporting back room. He certainly can afford it.

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