EnglandThe Six NationsVS
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It’s the opening weekend of the 2022 Six Nations, and all eyes will be on Murrayfield as the old enemies clash, with Scotland taking on England.
Scotland will see this match as a chance to put down a marker, and it’s set to be a battle of the number 10’s as Finn Russell and Marcus Smith go head-to-head.
Both players can instantly turn a game, and whichever side’s number 10 comes out on top will likely take the win here.
Scotland go into Saturday’s clash looking to notch up their third win over England in the last five tournaments.
They edged them out 11-6 at Twickenham last year to seal their first victory at the HQ of English rugby since 1983.
2020 saw England lift the Calcutta Cup with a hard-fought 13-6 victory at Murrayfield, but it’s a depleted squad that heads north this week, and a home win looks an excellent price.
The Scots have finally become more streetwise in recent months, and they have the experience and know-how to edge Saturday’s clash at 11/8 with bet365 and get their Six Nations challenge off to a winning start.
There’s a lot to like about Scotland heading into this year’s Six Nations on the back of a strong showing in the Autumn Series, plus a relatively injury-free squad to pick from.
They won three of their four internationals in October and November - steamrollering Tonga, edging out Australia by two points, and defeating Japan.
Their loss to world champions South Africa highlighted they still have plenty to learn, but after years of being the nearly-men, Scotland are aiming to make a significant impact in this Six Nations.
Home matches against England and France look winnable, and there’s no reason to fear a trip to Cardiff or Rome – so could it come down to a final day showdown with Ireland?
There’s plenty of rugby to play before then, starting with the visit of England this weekend, and as always, discipline will be critical.
Scotland are averaging single digits for penalties across the last two seasons and keeping a low count on Saturday will be vital, especially against an England side that conceded 67 in the previous Six Nations - the equal worst record alongside Italy.
The last three matches between these sides have seen just 15 points separate them, and another tight one looks on the cards at Murrayfield - a low penalty count could be the difference on Saturday.
A settled Scotland squad with Russell dictating behind a solid and experienced pack, along with the likely return of Cameron Redpath, should give them enough to edge this one and retain the Calcutta Cup.
It’s been a disrupted build-up to the Six Nations for Eddie Jones and England, with several key players missing, and more than half the backs in the current training squad have never played a Six Nations match.
Jones will need to strike the right balance if England are to improve on their woeful campaign last season that saw them end the Six Nations in a lowly 5th place.
A victory here, followed by a win away in Rome against Italy could see England sitting with two wins, but defeat at Murrayfield would see the pressure ramp right up on Jones and his inexperienced squad.
Big things are expected of Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward in the backline, while Alex Dombrandt looks set to start at number 8 in what will no doubt be a tasty battle with the Scottish back-row.
Cool heads are required in a Calcutta Cup battle. However, the question is, can an England side renowned for conceding penalties deal with the cauldron of Murrayfield?
This is one of the oldest sporting rivalries globally, with the first Scotland v England rugby match taking place in 1871 - the first-ever recorded international rugby union match. Since then, the sides have played 139 times, with England winning 76, Scotland 44, and 19 ending in a draw.
There’s been nothing to split the pair in recent years with the last five matches seeing two wins each and a thrilling 38-38 draw at Twickenham in 2019.
Murrayfield is the largest stadium in Scotland, with a capacity of 67,144, and is the home of the Scottish Rugby Union.
Opened in 1925, the first visiting side were England, with Scotland defeating them to win their first-ever Grand Slam.
The current COVID-19 protocols in Scotland mean that anyone attending the Scotland v England match must be double-vaccinated or show a negative lateral flow test.
Both sides will fancy their chances of kicking off their Six Nations campaigns with a victory, but home advantage could be the key on Saturday, and Scotland should edge it.
They'll need to be at their best, though, and will look to pressure England into errors and indiscipline that has been a theme in recent matches for the visitors.
Pressure, coupled with keeping their own crime count low, should see Scotland home.