Stage set for Calcutta Cup clash
January 31, 2013
England's Tom Croft crashes over to score the last time these two sides met at Twickenham in 2011 © Getty Images
England will attempt to prove their headline-grabbing victory over New Zealand last month was no fluke when they kick off their Six Nations campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster's side stunned the rugby world with a thrilling upset of the world champions in their final autumn outing but that game will have been swiftly confined to history with the pressure now on to repeat that level of performance against their familiar European rivals.
Scotland will have been desperate to draw a line under their end of year campaign for a vastly different reason having slumped to three straight defeats - the last of which was an embarrassing reverse at the hands of Tonga that cost coach Andy Robinson his job and left them languishing down in 12th in the IRB world rankings.
The Scots now have a new man at the helm in the shape of Robinson's former assistant Scott Johnson whose first challenge is one that proved too much for his predecessor and many more coaches before that - winning at English rugby's HQ. The last time Scotland beat England at Twickenham was back in 1983 with Lancaster's in-form side clear favourites to extend the visitors' barren run.
Head to Head
England - Player to Watch: Billy Twelvetrees will make his England debut in a new-look midfield alongside Brad Barritt with Manu Tuilagi sidelined through injury. Can the in-form Gloucester centre fill those sizeable boots?
England - Team News: Twelvetrees will line up at inside centre in one of two changes to the side that beat New Zealand last time out with Joe Marler also stepping in for the injured Alex Corbisiero at loose-head. Brad Barritt will revert to the outside centre role while hooker Tom Youngs has held off the challenge of a fit-again Dylan Hartley. Ben Youngs edges out Danny Care for the No.9 jersey and Alex Goode returned from a shoulder injury in time to retain the full-back berth.
Scotland - Player to Watch: The rapid promotion of New Zealand-born winger Sean Maitland has raised a few eyebrows but he qualifies through his grandfather and will no doubt be desperate to win over any doubters with an eye-catching display.
Scotland - Team News: Maitland is set to win his first cap as one of six changes to the side upset by Tonga. No.8 Johnnie Beattie earns a recall for the first time since 2011 while hooker Dougie Hall returns to the starting line-up after a six year break. Ruaridh Jackson is named at fly-half with Greig Laidlaw switching to the No.9 shirt for the first time and Sean Lamont moves from wing to centre. In the pack, Ryan Grant returns from injury at loose-head prop and Jim Hamilton is recalled to partner Richie Gray in the second row. Kelly Brown will lead the side from openside flanker.
Key Battle: A bruising battle awaits at Twickenham - especially up front - and expect captains and rival opensides Chris Robshaw and Kelly Brown to be in the thick of the action. Both players have been among the top performers in the Premiership this season but that will count for little come kick off. Which player will be able to get his side onto the front foot - and keep them there?
Trivia: England have won six out of the nine matches that referee Alain Rolland has officiated in the Six Nations. Scotland have only won one out of the six matches that Rolland has officiated in, most recently refereeing them in their 13-6 loss to Italy last year.
Stats: Scotland have only scored one try against England in the last five meetings between the two sides with that score coming from Max Evans in 2011.
Betting: There has been very little between these two sides of late so you may be tempted by Bet365's offer of 11/2 for an England win between 6-10 points. Or do you fancy Scotland debutant Scott Maitland to grab a try on his debut? Bet365 have the New Zealand-born winger at 14/1 to grab the first try or 7/2 to cross the whitewash at any point in the game.
"Manu is a fantastic player and an asset to any team but, having said that, there are numerous guys in this team who have proved their worth in the Premiership and international games."
"We are the poor little boys on the block and we are happy to go in as the poor little boys on the block. But rest assured, come game time we may not be a poor little boy."
Prediction: Fired by belief and brimming with confidence in the wake of their victory over the All Blacks, England will kick off their campaign with a win but a gutsy Scotland side determined to right a few wrongs will keep them within a score.
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