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Six Nations 2024: Scotland v England – where will the game be won?

Six Nations 2024: Scotland v England – where will the game be won?

  • Written by Alistair Telfer
  • BBC Sport

video caption, Six Nations highlights: England 23-29 Scotland

Guinness Six Nations: Scotland v England

place: Murrayfield, Edinburgh date: Saturday 24 February Starting: 16:45 GMT

coverage: Watch live on BBC One, iPlayer and online from 16:00 GMT, and listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Scotland; Live text and videos on the BBC Sport website and app.

Scotland and England will compete in the 130th edition of the Calcutta Cup on Saturday, and the rivalry will be as competitive as ever.

Will Scotland achieve its fourth successive victory over England? Or will Steve Borthwick's side win to maintain their Grand Slam challenge?

It is a crucial game for both sides in this season's Six Nations.

Where can the game be won or lost?

Scotland have found a way to win

Gregor Townsend's side have won the Calcutta Cup since beating England at Twickenham in 2021. This upturn in fortunes came after England retained the cup from 2009-2017.

The new competitiveness led to the match falling behind by one score in each of the past five matches, so that the 2019 match ended in a positive draw 38-38.

Scotland won its last match at Murrayfield Stadium against England in 2022 by three points, and won by six points at Twickenham Stadium in 2023.

Saturday's winner will likely fall back to small margins.

“Scotland are able to provide those moments of individual brilliance on a more consistent basis and the rest of their game is more solid,” former Scotland captain John Barkley told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Townsend described it as “Scotland's most important game of the season” and the advantage of playing at home gives the hosts an added advantage on Saturday.

“It's history. It's emotion,” Townsend said. “We've seen the impact this game has on the Scottish fans when we can get a win. And that will carry us through on Saturday.”

But Ben Earl said England were prepared to handle the Murrayfield atmosphere: “You have to love it. If you don't love it, you're playing the wrong sport at the wrong level. I absolutely love it.”

Can England stop Van der Merwe?

video caption, Watch: Van der Merwe's “exciting” attempt.

In a tense match last year at Twickenham, Duhan van der Merwe emerged as Scottish champions.

The powerful winger showed off his speed and sharp footwork to score a thrilling solo try before using his size and strength to power his way through to score a vital second-half goal.

South Africa's World Cup-winning assistant coach Felix Jones has been appointed to improve England's defence.

One part of the blitzing system he has implemented involves wingers rushing in from the flanks to stop attacks, which was evident in the closing stages of the win over Wales.

But will it work against Scotland?

“Finn Russell has a whole host of tricks to expose them,” Barkley added.

The ability to cover ground quickly is essential, and the surprise selection of full-back George Furbank, who is more agile than Freddie Steward, could help stop anything Russell conjures up to try and beat the press.

There were also system errors in the opening two rounds and Van der Merwe will need just half a chance to add to his effort so far in the Six Nations.

video caption, Englishman Ben Earl answers quick questions about his teammates

Attacking or kicking rugby?

Since taking over as Scotland head coach in 2017, Townsend has transformed his side into one of the most exciting attacking nations in rugby.

Not only has this style been entertaining, but it has also seen them outperform England in recent years.

But Scotland have failed to reach the knockout stages of the last two World Cups and are yet to win the Six Nations.

England coach Steve Borthwick opted for a realistic kicking game and a statistics-driven approach in his first year in Test rugby – the opposite philosophy to Townsend.

The evolution in England's game plan was evident during the first two matches, despite them resorting to old-fashioned methods to close out their win over Wales.

“If they are perfect or close to where they want to be with this game plan, then I think the potential for the England team is much greater,” former England winger Ugo Moen told Rugby Union Daily.

Winning ugly doesn't earn a lot of popularity points. However, eight wins from their last nine games show it has worked for Borthwick.

But the “attack-minded selection” of playmaker Furbank, and the return of midfielder Oli Lawrence to “knock on some doors”, could point to a new direction.

“I think Scotland kicked over 1,500 meters against France, which is one of the highest ever recorded in Test rugby,” Borthwick noted, explaining how statistics sometimes reveal surprises.

video caption, Six Nations 2024: Mooney and Barkley face 'skating' challenge.

Russell v. Ford

Maverick versus mastermind.

Flyhalf Russell is the beating heart of Scotland's attack and they showed exactly how unstoppable they are in attack in their opening game against Wales, when they scored 27 unanswered points in 43 minutes.

England's George Ford also had a notable impact against Wales, scoring 50-22 late in the game which gave his side vital field position and enabled them to score the match-winning penalty.

The 30-year-old has less attacking talent than Russell, but can be just as effective with his intelligent kicking style.

“They are different players, but they are at the sharp end of being elite international rugby players,” England assistant coach Richard Wigglesworth said.

Critics' Predictions – Scotland Favorite

video caption, Six Nations: Scotland need not worry – Davies has bad news for England

Former Wales player Jonathan Davies, speaking on Six Nations Rugby Special: “Scotland don't need to worry about England. They've beaten them a few times now.”

Barkley speaks on 5 Live: “Scotland by nine points.”

Former England captain Matt Dawson on BBC Scotland Rugby podcast: “If you can create that aura around yourself, which I think Scotland are making huge strides towards, it is very difficult to go into their own backyard and win.”

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