Red Rose will be made to work hard in nerve-racking Auckland decider

ENGLAND vs SCOTLAND

Saturday – 8.30am ITV 1

SCOTLAND would love nothing more than to spoil England’s party when the adversaries renew their rivalry in Auckland tomorrow morning. England’s fate is in their own hands and Martin Johnson recognises a win would guarantee top spot in Pool B. In contrast, the Scots’ chances are hanging by a thread, which promises to make for a nerve-racking contest at Eden Park.

There shouldn’t be a problem with the weather, as the forecasters suggest sunny intervals. With the conditions likely to be dry, both sides will be able to feed their fly-halves with clean ball to aid kicking.

England finally clicked into gear last weekend as they routed Romania 67-3 in Dunedin. The performance was a marked improvement from their opening two outings, but they can expect a tough test tomorrow. The Red Rose are aware of the importance of avoiding a slip up here, as it would mean a likely quarter-final with New Zealand – instead of the more attractive fixture against France.

Scotland tend to set up similarly to Argentina with a strong pack and they will look to keep the ball with the forwards and kick the points whenever the opportunity arises. They have never failed to reach the last eight at a Rugby World Cup, but are up against it now. A narrow 13-12 defeat against the Pumas was a crushing blow for Andy Robinson’s side, but there were positives to take from the game.

The line-out battle was won by Scotland, who managed to steal four of Argentina’s 12 throws. Steve Thompson will need to be at his accurate best if England are to fend off the Scots’ challenge.

Of the 128 clashes between the two nations, England lead the way with 68 wins to Scotland’s 42, with 18 draws. Martin Johnson’s men have won two of the last four meetings between the teams, but only once by more than 11 points. In March earlier this year the two sides clashed at Twickenham in the Six Nations and the hosts scraped a six point win, while the meeting before ended in a 15-15 draw.

Further support for a tight game is that the average winning margin in the Scots’ three Pool B matches currently stands at just seven points. It’s crunch time for Scotland tomorrow and they are more than capable of running England close. Backing Scotland to win with an 11-point start with Bet365 at evens is the way to go, while I also wouldn’t put anyone off taking the 9/2 available with Ladbrokes about England winning by 1-5 points.

There have only been two tries scored in the past two meetings between these sides and they both came in the Six Nations this year. The 15-15 game was dominated by the boot, with nine penalties and Dan Parks’ drop-goal. I can see the kickers holding the key to this match as well, so will be looking to sell total points at 39 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...

Scotland to win (+11) at evens with Bet365
England to win by 1-5 points at 9/2 with Ladbrokes
Sell total points at 39 with Sporting Index