KO 4.45 at Murrayfield
Saturday 8th February 2020
Live on BBC1
This game provides the chance for Scotland to hold the Calcutta Cup for 3 years in a row – something they haven’t managed since 1970-1972. Victory two years ago at Murrayfield snapped a 9 game winless streak against England that had seen the Auld Enemy rack up an average margin of victory of 14 points.
Scotland’s record in post-war Calcutta Cup matches by decade:
- 2010s – 1 win + 2 draws
- 2000s – 3 wins
- 1990s – 1 win
- 1980s – 3 wins + 2 draws
- 1970s – 5 wins + 1 draw
- 1960s – 2 wins + 2 draws
- 1950s – 1 win + 2 draws
Scotland will be looking to kick off a new decade’s series of matches against England with a win – as they did in 1950, 1970, 1990 and 2000.
England Scouting Report
Stopping the irresistible force
Eddie Jones made a big play of his side’s physicality ahead of their Round 1 encounter in the Six Nations. Shorn of Billy Vunipola (and voluntarily declining to replace him with a specialist 8) the English pack found themselves being stuffed on or behind the gainline time and time again by France.
From 86 carries England’s forwards made 79 metres – less than a metre per carry. By contrast in their day of days against the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final the English 8 made 149m from 83 carries.
Add in their performance in the RWC Final (65m from 74 carries) and the evidence points to stopping front foot ball at source as being one of the keys to getting at the English gameplan. Can Scotland’s tight 5 match the physicality and intensity of their performance against Ireland in defence? And then improve on it in attack by finding a way to force the ball over the tryline?
Dominating the field
Against France, England had 61% of the possession and 70% of territory (including 82% territory in the second half!)
In the last two Calcutta Cup matches Scotland have been up against it in terms of time with the ball and in the English half of the pitch. In part that’s down to being the more efficient side in attack but Eddie Jones’s side are built to hang on to the ball and play in the right places.
In Paris England parlayed their dominance of possession into 11 entries into their opponents 22 – coincidentally the same number Scotland managed against Ireland. The Scots couldn’t turn a single one of their chances into tries. If it wasn’t for the individual brilliance of Jonny May then England’s efforts to touch down over the whitewash would have been similarly ineffective.
Both these teams will be looking to make far more of their opportunities this time round. Scotland may well have to do it from a minority share of possession and territory.
- England attacked a lot down the 10 / 12 channel, forcing 38 tackles from France’s stand off and inside centre (32 made and 6 missed).
- England won 10 out of 10 on their own put in at the scrum and looked solid with both the starting and replacement front rows.
- There is real kicking variety in the English ranks with outside centre being the only position in their backline not to boot the ball at least twice v France. (Against Ireland, bar 1 from Kinghorn, all Scotland’s kicking from hand went through Price, Hastings and Hogg.)
This will be the 11th time the two sides have played at Murrayfield in a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:
W L L W W D L L L W
Most recent meeting in Edinburgh:
Scotland 25 – 13 England
10 – rucks lost by England. That’s the most of any of Scotland’s opponents in a game during the Townsend era. The Scottish back row of John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson were on fire at the breakdown (and crucially also on the same wavelength as referee, Nigel Owens).
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 2: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
This is actually getting to the stage of being a little weird now – M. Gauzere will referee Scotland for the 9th time in the last 3 years (34 matches). The French official seems to be World Rugby’s default for games involving the dark blues. It would be intriguing to know if any other ref has taken charge of one Test side as frequently in the last 36 months…
Looking at the positives, Scotland will have a huge amount of data on M. Gauzere’s tendencies. They’ve also done pretty well out of the games he’s refereed, discipline-wise anyway. Across 11 matches, dating back to 2014, Scotland have won 22 more penalties than their opponents. The card count has also run the way of the Scots with 4 yellows conceded versus 6 sin bins and 1 red card for their opposition.
Scotland’s last games with M. Gauzere in charge:
- 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
Penalties: 15 (For 8 – 7 Against)
- 2018 – beat Italy (A)
Penalties: 14 (For 9 – 5 Against)
- 2019 – lost to Wales (H)
Penalties: 20 (For 11 – 9 Against)
- 2019 – beat Georgia (A)
Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
- 2019 – beat Samoa (N)
Penalties: 24 (For 14 – 10 Against)
Cards: Samoa 1 YC + 1 RC (for a 2nd yellow)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.