England to keep hopes alive
After defeat in Dublin, England will look to get their campaign back on track against bottom of the pile Scotland, who are desperately trying to avoid a first Wooden Spoon since 2011.
All is not lost for Stuart Lancaster’s side, who know the title is still within their grasp should the Welsh do them a favour earlier in the day.
England could yet replicate what the Irish did last year when claiming the title; by winning on points difference despite going down to their closest rivals.
For Scotland, it’s all about salvaging something from what is turning out to be another dispiriting campaign, despite a series of promising performances. The Scots as this stage must be weary of the valiant losers’ tag. But with an aggregate points difference of just -13 after three defeats from three, the moniker seems apt.
Vern Cotter’s men have not played badly in any of their games but are clearly lacking the confidence that winning teams have to close out tight encounters.
Sensing this, England will go for the jugular, knowing that as things stand – and irrespective of the result in Cardiff – they currently have an inferior points difference to Ireland with only France to come next week.
The home side are boosted by the return of Mike Brown at full-back, while the inclusion of towering second row Courtney Laws for his first start since recovering from injury is a massive fillip for the pack.
Scotland have proven a more robust and physical side than in previous years and will not make life easy for England, with the return of abrasive back row David Denton and the experienced Jim Hamilton in the second row sure to further strengthen their cause.
Elsewhere, the ever-improving Finn Russell resumes his position in the pivot position after serving a two-game suspension, while Stuart Hogg has the potential to cause havoc on the counter-attack.
However, England may target a perceived soft centre for Scotland where the impressive Alex Dunbar misses out through injury.
Visiting the home of the Auld Enemy, where they have not enjoyed Calcutta Cup success since 1983, is a daunting prospect for winless Scotland and the suspicion is the Scots may be eyeing up next week’s home game in Murrayfield against the Irish as a more realistic target.
That’s not to say Scotland won’t give it everything against their age old rivals, but judging by their recent results, another narrow defeat looks likely. England won’t have much to spare and a winning margin of 6-10 points is available at 15/4.
The match kicks off at 5.00pm on Saturday, March 14th at Twickenham.