herald

Friday 15 December 2017

English scalp to restore Scots' pride

Scotland v England, Murrayfield, Saturday 5.0, Live RTé 2/BBC1

There is nothing to get a Scotsman's dander up quite like the sight of an English jersey entering the cauldron that can be Murrayfield for the Calcutta Cup match.

The positivity of November is now a distant memory, eroded against France, sullied by the collapse in Wales and made totally redundant by the fall in Rome.

It should be enough to send a once optimistic public scattering to the Highlands. It would be were it not England coming to Edinburgh. This is the scalp they crave over every other each year.

The beautifully balanced Scottish backrow of Kelly Brown, John Barclay and John Beattie is one that can compete with the best in the world, and England are some way short of that in this area.

The Scots' coach, former England flanker Andy Robinson, will have the task of stretching out the hour-long revelatory performance in Cardiff to last the full 80 minutes.

The game plan must be to take England through the phases with their swift rucking style, and swing the ball from touchline to touchline in search of gaps that only seem to appear after phase-play moving into the teens.

England's Martin Johnson is working under a daily avalanche of vitriol and bile from former players, and the bulk of the media that just cannot accept his side's mediocrity.

The day is fast approaching when the legendary player will be cast away unless he can start to orchestrate the winning trend that is seen as his one and only goal at the moment.

Verdict: Scotland

Scotland: H Southwell; S Lamont, N de Luca, G Morrison, M Evans; D Parks, C Cusiter (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, J Hamilton, A Kellock, K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie.

England: D Armitage; M Cueto, M Tait, R Flutey, U Monye; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Cole, L Deacon, S Borthwick (capt), J Haskell, J Worsley, N Easter.

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