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Page last updated at 12:59 GMT, Friday, 11 March 2011

Six Nations: Jeremy Guscott on England v Scotland

Venue: Twickenham Date: Sunday, 13 March Kick-off: 1500 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One from 1430, and on the Red Button and online; listen on BBC Radio 5 live; text commentary online and on mobiles

Clockwise (from left): Scotland coach Andy Robinson, number eight Kelly Brown, second row Richie Gray, captain Alastair Kellock, centre Sean Lamont
A frustrated Andy Robinson has seen his side fail to deliver so far in the Six Nations but with players such as Kelly Brown, Richie Gray, Alastair Kellock and Sean Lamont, if they can cut out the errors they could cause England problems

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Former England and Lions centre

Both history and current form are resolutely against Scotland, and it would be a huge upset if they were to win at Twickenham on Sunday. But only the foolish would dismiss their chances entirely.

Scotland go into the Calcutta Cup game knowing they have not won in south-west London for 28 years, and having lost all three outings in the 2011 Six Nations.

They may be short of confidence, but I was once part of an England team that won in Cardiff in 1991 for the first time in 27 years. Did the run of defeats worry me going into the game? No, it didn't, and that is the mindset Scotland have to travel with on Sunday.

Coach Andy Robinson - making his first return to Twickenham in a professional capacity since losing his job as England boss in 2006 - must be intensely frustrated, because going into the tournament the Scots looked set to do well.

They have created chances and played reasonably well in their three games, but they have not been accurate in their basic skills and that is what has cost them.

The opportunities they gave France in their opening match contributed hugely to Scotland losing.

The Scots scored three tries but I suspect their flow of errors meant France felt quite comfortable during the match and did not have to be as intense as they could have been.

Despite that defeat I expected Scotland to beat Wales in the second game.

Having scored three tries against the French I thought they would be high on confidence, while Wales would be low on belief having lost to England.

Inexplicably, Scotland just did not show up.

Scotland have got some good players - Richie Gray has been one of the sensations of the Six Nations - and it can be very difficult to understand why a team does not perform. You find yourself at a loss as to why talented players have not stepped up; once again they made the sort of unforced errors you wouldn't expect from international players. After that defeat Robinson decided he had to change things around.

Wilkinson recalls 'helpless' Scotland encounters

His thought process would have been, "I'm talking and they're listening, and when we're practising they're getting everything right, but they go out and they don't perform".

As a result he decided to make seven changes against Ireland, but once again they underperformed, giving Ireland a head start and not leaving enough time to claw it back.

Scotland are in a difficult place mentally at the moment and Robinson has said that if his team are to stand any chance of winning they have to be accurate and cannot afford any unforced errors.

That's not just a case of holding your passes or making your tackles - important though they are.

For instance, if you kick it has to be with pin-point accuracy and your chase has to put real pressure on the opposition.

If you do that then either you win the ball back or the opposition will be forced to give it back to you.

What is happening with Scotland at the moment is that even when they are not under pressure they are still giving possession back to the opposition far too cheaply.

They have to cut out those errors because they are energy sapping, both mentally and physically.


No-one makes mistakes on purpose but a lack of concentration or a lack of intensity can lead to a mistake which costs your team all its momentum and positivity.

You might not always see heads drop but internally it's like you've had your gizzards ripped out.

If it happens once it's not too bad but when you've got seven, eight, nine unforced errors, it has to play on your mind.

Scotland have made four changes for the Twickenham trip but it is Robinson's decision not to make a change at fly-half that is possibly the most notable.

In 2005, during his reign as England coach, Robinson picked the then 18-year-old Mathew Tait to face Wales.

It was an unhappy debut for the teenager and he was immediately discarded, which cannot have done much for his confidence.

I think Robinson might have learned from that because although Ruaridh Jackson didn't have his best game against Ireland, he has been retained at 10.

Jackson was nowhere near as poor as Tait was in Cardiff, but if you pick someone you have to believe in them.

Recalled flanker Nathan Hines will add some ballast and go-forward on the blind-side, while outside centre Joe Ansbro would have played if fit last time out.

Sean Lamont stays at inside centre - he has been one of Scotland's best players so needs to be in the side. I would prefer him at outside centre but Ansbro's got that slot and he's definitely a 13.

They have got good players all through the team - John Barclay and Kelly Brown are both decent back-rowers and Alastair Kellock puts himself about in the second row.

Scotland have done well in some phases of the game, notably the line-outs, but they have struggled to complete their tackles this Six Nations, missing 33 to England's 11 over the course of the Championship.

They also struggle to win much turnover ball and that blunts their attack - they have only scored three tries and conceded nine, while England have scored 11 and conceded two.

For England it's a case of more of the same on Saturday, and the greatest difficulty they face is that with every win the expectation rises dramatically.


Before France the chat was about whether they could continue their good run when they played a decent side, or would they come a cropper as they did against South Africa in the autumn?

They passed that test. The question this time round is a little different: can they win when they are overwhelming favourites?

I like to think this side is taking nothing for granted. They seem to have good team spirit, the buzz is good, there's a lot of understanding about what they're doing and there's lots of respect, but they're only one loss away from being on the back foot again.

I hope half-backs Ben Youngs and Toby Flood played their worst games against France, when it didn't always click.

I'd also like England to bring centres Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall into play more, certainly from first phase, and get the ball in Hape's hands more in other phases.

England will be looking for more of the same and to keep improving, while Scotland need to be accurate and cut out the errors - they have got good enough players, they are just not playing well enough.

The great thing about sport is that the big upset is just around the corner, so I'm not going to say categorically England will win.

If Scotland are accurate in their play on Sunday, England are going to be faced with more problems to solve than many home fans might anticipate.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

You can follow Jerry on Twitter at

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see also
Croft back for England on bench
11 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Kellock slams criticism of backs
10 Mar 11 |  Scottish
Scots target England's creativity
08 Mar 11 |  Scottish
Scotland 18-21 Ireland
27 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 6-24 Wales
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
France 34-21 Scotland
05 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 17-9 France
26 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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