Scottish pain to continue in Calcutta Cup contest

ENGLAND vs SCOTLAND

SUNDAY – 3.00PM BBC2

SCOTLAND’S defence coach Graham Steadman has pinpointed how his team can beat England in Sunday’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham. He says that neutralising the opposition’s creative back three of Chris Ashton, Mark Cueto and Ben Foden is the key. That is certainly easier said than done.

Despite showing promise and discipline in their autumn international against South Africa, when they limited the World Champions to a single, late try, the wheels have since come off Scotland’s defence. Right from their Six Nations opener against France, when they shipped four tries, Andy Robinson’s men have looked lacking in the resistance department. Wales’ creative star, Shane Williams, crossed the line twice against Scotland and Ireland could have scored many more than three had they not squandered their chances at the finish.

Supposing the visitors do successfully tame England’s dangerous trio; they will surely leave gaps elsewhere. Let’s not forget about the ability of the Red Rose’s half-backs, Ben Youngs and Toby Flood, to break the line. In his first start for Scotland, fly-half Ruaridh Jackson looked seriously underequipped in his defensive capabilities against the Irish, leading to touchdowns from both scrum-half Eoin Reddan and fly-half Ronan O’Gara, and it’s a surprise to see him picked to start in preference to Dan Parks again. Therein lies a strong argument to suggest that Youngs or Flood might score the first try and Paddy Power’s 2/1 for a number 9, 10, 12 or 13 to score first appears good value.

Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the Scottish national side’s first venture to Twickenham but only four times in 44 matches have they returned home celebrating. The Scottish have failed to beat England this side of Hadrian’s Wall in 28 years and with their hosts in such rude health only a fool would expect that run to come to an end this year.

The relevant question is how many points Martin Johnson’s team will win by. England’s average winning margin over Scotland at HQ in the last decade is 25.6 points, and only the most recent result, in 2009, would not have beaten the 15 point handicap that the Red Rose are offered on Sunday. It’s not too taboo now to say that England are on course for their first Grand Slam since 2003 and it’s notable that the winning margin in the Calcutta Cup that year was 31 points.

The gap was 40 points at Twickenham two years before that. Therefore, there appears little downside to backing a handicapped England with Victor Chandler, who are still offering evens on all Six Nations handicap bets.

There is not much chance of Scotland going into the match with damage limitation in mind - it’s all or nothing where their rivalry with England is concerned - so it’s tempting to also buy England’s supremacy at 20 with Sporting Index. However, given the Scots’ habit of conceding inside the first ten minutes throughout this Championship, selling the time of England’s first try becomes a more interesting spread bet. Scotland have conceded tries in the fifth, seventh and second minutes so far, so selling at 24 minutes makes sense.

The relevant question is how many points Martin Johnson’s team will win by. England’s average winning margin over Scotland at HQ in the last decade is 25.6 points, and only the most recent result, in 2009, would not have beaten the 15 point handicap that the Red Rose are offered on Sunday. It’s not too taboo now to say that England are on course for their first Grand Slam since 2003 and it’s notable that the winning margin in the Calcutta Cup that year was 31 points. The gap was 40 points at Twickenham two years before that. Therefore, there appears little downside to backing a handicapped England with Victor Chandler, who are still offering evens on all Six Nations handicap bets.

There is not much chance of Scotland going into the match with damage limitation in mind - it’s all or nothing where their rivalry with England is concerned - so it’s tempting to also buy England’s supremacy at 20 with Sporting Index. However, given the Scots’ habit of conceding inside the first ten minutes throughout this Championship, selling the time of England’s first try becomes a more interesting spread bet. Scotland have conceded tries in the fifth, seventh and second minutes so far, so selling at 24 minutes makes sense.g Index.

POINTERS...

England to win with 15pt handicap at EVS with Victor Chandler
Number 9, 10, 12 or 13 to score first try at 2/1 with Paddy Power
Sell time of England’s first try at 24 minutes with Sporting Index

MANCHESTER UNITED vs ARSENAL

TOMORROW – 5.15PM ITV1

THE moment has arrived for four to become one. A fortnight ago there was talk of an historic quadruple for Arsenal, but Manchester United have the chance to hammer a third nail into the coffin of that dream when the sides square up in the FA Cup.

Before the Carling Cup final, the Gunners were 1/9 to claim a major trophy this season. They are now 4/7 not to lift one for a sixth year in a row and whether Arsenal can shake off the gloom that has descended before the Old Trafford showdown will undoubtedly have a say on the outcome of this tie.

Recent events offer little encouragement for Victor Chandler’s 11/4 underdogs. Despite closing to within three points of their hosts in the league, Arsene Wenger’s outfit are winless in three games and their most recent victory outside the Emirates was at Leeds in this competition in mid-January.

The last FA Cup contest between the pair came three years ago in Manchester and saw the hosts ease to a 4-0 victory. United’s record in the fixture is strong across all competitions; they are unbeaten in six and have won five of those, a run which includes December’s league clash when Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges prospered thanks to a first-half Ji-Sung Park strike.

United are trading at evens on Betdaq and that looks good for a side unbeaten at home this campaign – domestically and in Europe – and which has won 17 of those 20 matches.

Yes, United are wobbling a little with three defeats in five league outings, but they’ve lost on just one other occasion and all their reverses were on the road.

More likely is that, with United chugging rather than steaming along, the game will be close, so backing the 1-0 correct score at 6/1 with Victor Chandler and selling goals with Sporting Index at 2.4 is recommended.

POINTERS...

Man United to win at EVS on Betdaq
Man United to win 1-0 at 6/1 with Victor Chandler
Sell goals at 2.4 with Sporting Index