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2018 SIX NATIONS Preview: Scotland vs England {24-2-18}

Can Scotland end England’s Grand Slam dreams and, in the process, provide a significant fillip for their own title aspirations?

Before the tournament, this match always appeared a potential stumbling block for Eddie Jones’ men in their quest for a record third successive Six Nations championship.

Following the Scots’ performance in round one, where they simply failed to turn up, those concerns would have dissipated slightly, but Gregor Townsend’s men are a different beast at Murrayfield.

The triumph over France was a much-needed victory and, with some of their key players still having room for improvement, Scottish supporters can quite rightly get excited about Saturday’s encounter.

They have had plenty of false dawns against the Red Rose over previous years and have not scored a try versus the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield since 2004, when Simon Danielli crossed the whitewash in a 35-13 loss, but there are reasons to be confident.

In Stuart Hogg, they have one of the most threatening attacking players in Europe, while Huw Jones, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour are all strike runners that can cause any opponent problems.

Of course, consistency is still an issue and England themselves are far more formidable opponents but, should Scotland’s big players turn up for the occasion like they did in the autumn, the visitors could find themselves under pressure.

Jones’ team will fancy their chances up front and, man for man, the defending champions probably have a better backline, but the hosts have slightly more unpredictability.

That may have been to their detriment at times, with Finn Russell struggling in the opening two encounters, yet it would not surprise should Russell and co hit their straps on Saturday.

They must, however, rely on their forwards to set a platform, unlike the corresponding fixture last year, and that is where the hosts could come unstuck.

England, despite failing to solve their quandaries in the back-row, still have a very effective forward eight which matches anyone in the world. Joe Marler has also returned to the bench to provide set-piece impact and the so-called ‘finishers’ are ready to pounce should Scotland tire.

All in all, it sets up a mouth-watering contest which has the potential to be one of the best matches of the championship.

Previous results:

2017: England won 61-21 in London
2016: England won 15-9 in Edinburgh
2015: England won 25-13 in London
2014: England won 20-0 in Edinburgh
2013: England won 38-18 in London
2012: England won 12-6 in Edinburgh
2011: England won 16-12 in Auckland
2011: England won 22-16 in London
2010: Scotland and England drew 15-15 in Edinburgh
2009: England won 26-12 in London

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Blair Kinghorn

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 George Kruis, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell

Date: Saturday, February 24
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)



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