This is the best Scotland side for more than a decade, but they've no chance of beating England

Ollie Phillips
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England v Italy - RBS Six Nations
Elliot Daly has shone for England during the Six Nations (Source: Getty)

This is the best Scotland side we’ve seen for well over a decade, yet I don’t give them any chance of beating England on Saturday and recording their first victory at Twickenham since 1983.

Scotland are playing some good rugby, will pose stern questions and I don’t think for a second that it’ll be a cricket score, but England are the form side in world rugby at the moment. The quality England possess vastly outweighs that of the Scots.

That’s not to take anything away from Scotland. They’ve had two outstanding scalps in Ireland and Wales and are in contention for their maiden Triple Crown since 1990.

Looking back to when Scotland used to enjoy some dominance, the spine of their backline – the No9, 10, 15 axis – was strong. With the likes of Gavin Hastings, Andy Nicol, Gary Armstrong and Gregor Townsend, they had creative talent.

For the first time in ages, Scotland have real threats throughout their backs. Stuart Hogg is an absolute gem of a No15, he’s world class, and Finn Russell and Ali Price are highly impressive. Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar are the best centres they’ve had for a long while.

Weaknesses to exploit

In recent years they've had to rely on turning a game into a dogfight in order to scrape it 10-9 or something like that. Now they have the ability to play some good, free-flowing rugby and cause a lot of problems.

But it’s still not going to be enough at the weekend. England are too strong and looking at the changes head coach Eddie Jones has made, they’re really smart. I believe England will win by a 14-16 point margin.

England will have to weather the storm of a resilient Scotland’s aggression in defence – pressing and harrying – and I reckon it will be tight for around 60 minutes, after which the hosts will pull away.

There are weaknesses for Scotland to exploit, however. While wingers Jack Nowell and Elliot Daly are incredible ball-playing runners, they are quite small.

Scotland had a lot of joy with high balls against the Welsh last month and, considering Harlequins winger Tim Visser is 6ft 3ins, I can imagine that tactic being employed again.

Despite my overall prediction, it is going to be a big test for England’s defence. Scotland have more livewires than Jones’s side have faced so far in the tournament and it will be a prelude to what will be a momentous challenge against Ireland in Dublin next week.

Grand slam-clincher

Perhaps Scotland have also seen how frail England’s decision-making was against Italy during the whole “ruckgate” affair and plan to throw a few curveballs of their own in there. England will need to be a lot smarter than they were against the Azzurri should that happen.

Speaking of Ireland, their match against Wales in Cardiff on Friday is enormous. It will be a cauldron at the Principality Stadium. Whichever way the result goes, it’s going to raise the stakes for England’s potential Grand Slam-clincher in Dublin.

If Ireland win, it will be a straight shootout with England to see who wins the tournament. If Joe Schmidt’s outfit lose, they’ll need to right some wrongs and prove they are a world class team and that win against New Zealand was no fluke. England's clash with Ireland is going to be ferocious.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.

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