Calcutta Cup preview

Rarely can a Calcutta Cup have been so eagerly awaited as this Saturday’s Six Nations clash between the oldest of international rivals.

Anyone using some of the free bets from sites like Big Free Bet will no doubt plump for a home win as a banker on their weekend’s coupons because it is 34 years since the Scots last tasted victory at Twickenham.

Indeed, Scotland have grown used to playing the sacrificial lambs on visits there, last winning in the Auld Enemy’s home citadel in 1983. And even though the hammerings of past years are exactly that, a thing of the past, the average winning margin in the last five fixtures to be played on English soil has been 15 points.

Sixteen times since their last triumph at Twickenham have the Dark Blues been sent home to think again, although in 1989 they did manage to salvage a 12-12 draw.

But this weekend the Tartan army travels in hope. Vern Cotter has got Scotland playing attractive, and winning, rugby and having broken a 10-year drought against Wales, they’ll be confident of ending another miserable sequence.

Wins against Ireland and Wales either side of a narrow defeat to France in Paris have put Scotland in contention for their first-ever Six Nations title.

If they become the first side to beat England since Australia at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Scotland will go into the final round of fixtures knowing that a big win over perennial wooden spoon contenders Italy will put them in a strong position to take the northern hemisphere’s most coveted prize.

Injuries to skipper and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw and influential No.8 Josh Strauss may hurt Scotland now that we’re at the business end of the Championship. But against Wales they coped admirably with both players’ absence, Finn Russell taking over the goal-kicking duties from Laidlaw with aplomb and John Barclay leading the side with distinction.

Russell, the standout 10 in the Six Nations to date, landed all seven of his kicks at goal in the 29-13 win over Wales and another 100 per cent performance off the tee on Saturday will make sure that Scotland are there or thereabouts again.

While England are the only side left of completing the Grand Slam, they have performed in fits and starts.

Outplayed against Wales and out-thought by Italy, at least in the first half, you get the sense that England are only hanging onto their 17-game winning run by a thread.

Even Owen Farrell, so reliable in front of goal, endured a difficult day against the Azzurri and if the Red Rose are to win again it’s more than likely going to come down to single figures.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that stopping Stuart Hogg at source is an absolute must. Hogg makes more line breaks and metres than any of his team-mates – or indeed most players in the Championship full stop – and is a sure-fire contender to wear the Lions No.15 jersey in New Zealand this summer.

England will also need to try and direct their attacks away from the Gray brothers, two tackling machines who stop most things in their track. However, they won’t find any sanctuary in the Scottish midfield as Alex Dunbar has a Championship bets turnover count of seven.

It all points to being a classic Calcutta Cup tie in this most entertaining of Six Nations Championships.

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