Five things Scotland need to do to finally beat England

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It’s been 34 years since the last time Scotland defeated England at Twickenham, but with the Triple Crown at stake there’s no better time to end that drought. So, what do our lads need to do in order to win the game?

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Vern Cotter will have to get his Scotland side believing they can win. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Vern Cotter will have to get his Scotland side believing they can win. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Boss the breakdown

The back-row battle is always pivotal to the outcome of any match. He may be biased but Scotland skipper and flanker John Barclay described it earlier in the week as the heart of the game. The Scottish loose forwards, led by the acting captain, have distinguished themselves so far in the tournament.

At Twickenham they will face a physical and dynamic trio in Maro Itoje, James Haskell and Nathan Hughes. However, there is a widespread feeling that Itoje is far more suited to the second row.

If Scotland can utilise Barclay’s nous, Hamish Watson’s explosiveness and Ryan Wilson’s abrasiveness, they can cause England problems. Although the entry of Billy Vunipola to the fray at some point off the bench will bring a whole new dynamic to the contest.

Hang in at scrum time

The Scottish scrum has been on thin ice throughout the tournament and will be braced for another fearsome assault from a huge English pack with the scent of blood in their nostrils.

After struggling particularly badly in Paris, there was improvement against Wales. Shorn of their first-choice props, credit must go the players for that but there were two other factors. Firstly, the home pack did seem to get a fair hearing from the Irish referee John Lacey at Murrayfield a fortnight and will be praying for similar friendliness from Mathieu Raynal of France this weekend. Secondly, the importance of a clean, quick hook to the back of the scrum, which allowed No 8 Ryan Wilson to get the ball away before the set-piece came to grief was vital. More of that please.

Defend like demons

Scotland have developed an attack to be proud of and that is always the best form of defence. However, there is no doubt that the visitors will spend a lot of time attempting to repel waves of attack from England on their own patch.

The Scots’ defence has been pretty solid so far, with only one try conceded in France, for example, despite the barrage Les Bleus threw at them in periods. There is bound to be similarly backs to the wall moments at Twickenham, with the added difficulty that England have more creative backs than France to go with the monster pack.

Bring some chaos

It is unlikely that the Scottish coaching staff have anything up their sleeves as dramatic as the Italian ruckless strategy of two weeks ago. However, most matches these days see Scotland throw some kind of surprise innovation in at some point, such as the backs in the lineout ploy that led to Alex Dunbar’s try against Ireland.

England’s initial bamboozlement at Italy’s tactics has added to a sense that, while an undoubtedly quality side, they are perhaps a bit rigidly structured and not the quickest to adapt when caught off guard.

Believe

Okay it’s been 34 years and England are on an unbelievable winning streak. We just don’t win at Twickenham. When Scotland last won there in 1983 you would probably be committed to an asylum if you suggested that a Scotsman would win the men’s singles at Wimbledon (twice) before the men in dark blue tasted another victory of their own in south-west London.

And yet this feels like a team very different from the previous ones of the past three decades who headed south more in hope than expectation and, sometimes not much hope. The discipline and organisation Vern Cotter has brought means they are at the very least difficult to beat, losses when they come tend to be by less than a score, while the revolution of the attack means Scotland now expect to score quality tries against even the top nations in the world.

Records are meant to be broken. Why not this weekend?

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