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Monday, 17 December, 2018

Dominant England scrum can force Scotland on to back foot

Hosts may struggle to break through hard-working defence

Scotland winger Tommy Seymour couldn't find a way through the Wales defence
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Round three
ITV & TV3, 4.45pm Saturday

Last year England put the Scots to the sword 61-21 in a nine-try blowout at Twickenham. But when the teams have met at Murrayfield it has been a different story.

In the last three meetings on Scottish soil there have been a total of just five tries, all scored by England, while in the three before that there were none at all, meaning Scotland haven't scored a try against the auld enemy at Murrayfield since 2004.

But Scotland aren't the team they were in those previous encounters, having shot up the rankings and found a significant attacking edge under first Vern Cotter and now Gregor Townsend.

But England have stepped up their game under Eddie Jones, including in their fitness and their tireless defence. Two weeks ago at Twickenham they held their tryline intact against a Wales side who had run in four tries against the Scots seven days earlier.

England's defence was so effective because of the speed at which they pressed up and with which they scrambled, a by-product of the emphasis Jones put on fitness when he took over as coach a little over two years ago.

It was similar to the way Wales managed to snuff out Scotland attacks at source in the opening match of the championship - they did not concede a try until the game was up in the 79th minute.

Scotland's backs have earned a reputation for their adventurous play. Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour toured with the Lions last summer, Sean Maitland completed the back three against France two weeks ago and got on the scoresheet, as did centre Huw Jones for his fourth try in his last five starts.

But the Wales game showed how that threat can be nullified if the Scots are denied a platform up front, and while the Welsh resisted the temptation to take on a depleted Scottish pack in a close-quarters battle, England may not be nearly so reticent.

A strong English forward unit is bolstered by the return of prop Joe Marler from suspension to the bench, and a dominant scrum can be a vital source of pressure. The visitors look worth backing to open the scoring with a penalty in what could be another close-fought victory.

England to win by one to 12 points
1pt 8-5 Betway, BoyleSports
England penalty first scoring play
1pt 15-8 Betfair, BoyleSports

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In the last three meetings on Scottish soil there have been a total of just five tries, all scored by England
E.W. Terms
Sky bet