Scotland will look to match their best ever run of victories against England in the championship as they go for four in a row on Saturday.

Scotland's longest winning streaks v England in Six Nations / Five Nations / Home Nations:

  • Four wins
    • 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896
  • Three wins
    • 2021, 2022, 2023*
    • 1970, 1971, 1972
    • 1925, 1926, 1927
    • 1907, 1908, 1909
    • 1903, 1904, 1905

* Active streak

Combined with the victory in 2018 and draw in 2019, this means that Scotland have held the Calcutta Cup for 1,827 days across the last six years. That’s longer in possession of the old trophy than Scotland managed in the previous 33 years.

A large part of this success has been down to finally finding the ability to score tries again versus the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield.

In the last three clashes in Edinburgh, Scotland have scored five tries (penalty try, White, Jones (2) and Maitland) after only scoring seven in 15 fixtures between 1988 and 2016 (Danielli, Hodge, Stanger (2), Longstaff, Wainwright, White) – with none at all in six matches from 2006 to 2016.

England Scouting Report

World Cup Progress

Pool stage:

  • England 27-10 Argentina
  • England 34-12 Japan
  • England 71-0 Chile
  • England 18-17 Samoa


  • England 30-24 Fiji


  • England 15-16 South Africa

Bronze final:

  • England 26-23 Argentina

England started  like a steam train in France last autumn. Despite playing 77 minutes with only 14 men after Tom Curry’s early red card, they dismantled Argentina in their opening group fixture. They followed this up by humbling supposed second seeds Japan, before ruthlessly dispatching World Cup new boys Chile.

From there on in it was an exercise in bloody-minded determination. With qualification still on the line, England needed a late try from veteran scrum-half Danny Care to sneak past Samoa. It was Owen Farrell’s similarly late drop goal that nudged his side in front of Fiji in the quarter-final.

The issue for the English in the semi-final was coming up against the only team in world rugby more cussed and obdurate. Steve Borthwick’s side couldn’t protect their lead as the game reached its zenith and this time it was their turn to lose out in the last 10 minutes, in this case to Handre Pollard’s penalty for South Africa.

Rounding out their tournament with a rematch against Argentina in the relatively pointless Bronze Final must have felt like an anti-climax. This time round, England were able to hold a three-point lead through the final 10 minutes – although Nicolas Sanchez’s missed penalty in the 75th minute could have changed that picture.

Springbok influence

Since losing out to South Africa in the 2019 RWC final it seems that at least some of England’s approach has been predicated on emulating the back-to-back world champions. What the RFU would probably love to have done is throw money at Rassie Erasmus and get him in to run the show from top to bottom at international level.

With that being a highly unlikely prospect, the English staff has instead attempted to assimilate some of that Springbok success by adding coaches from the South African setup.

Matt Proudfoot, the former Scotland prop, was there primarily to fix the scrum that he had helped undermine in the 2019 final. Like most people working under Eddie Jones, he didn’t last too long.

Now it’s the turn of former Munster player, Felix Jones. The man who was an attack consultant in 2019 but broadened his role with South Africa over time is bringing the Jacques Nienaber defence to his new side.

It’s an understandable system to try and mimic given the results it has provided. There are a couple of question marks for England though – and areas that Scotland must try and exploit. How long is it likely to take to build the understanding required both of the defensive alignments and decision-making?

More fundamentally, does the current English side have the right playing resources for this approach? The Springboks are able to call on arguably the most physically imposing pack on the planet (with possibly the second most physically imposing set of forwards waiting on the bench). They have multiple players who can wreck breakdowns single-handed, let alone when they work as units.

In the backline, the midfield brings the power while the wingers have scorching pace to not only charge up but also to recover when the initial rush is beaten, providing an incredibly resolute scramble defence.

England can call on plenty of experience and rugby intelligence from the likes of Henry Slade and Elliot Daly in their backline. There’s plenty of size and strength in the pack. Ultimately though, they lack a bit of both the raw physical power and outrageous pace that are fundamentals of the Springbok approach.

Breakdown chaos

The English / South African defence starts at the breakdown. Slowing ball and causing chaos is the order of the day when the opposition have the ball. That’s been clear from the rate of defensive ruck arrivals in the first two rounds of this Six Nations with England hitting the breakdown far more frequently than any other side:

  • England – defensive ruck arrival for every 1.16 breakdowns
  • Ireland – 1.25
  • Wales – 1.42
  • France – 1.50
  • Italy – 1.56
  • Scotland – 1.72

The key figures in this approach are Ben Earl (25 defensive ruck arrivals) and Maro Itoje (21). It’s become fashionable to knock Itoje’s contributions but while he may not dominate games in the same way he did a few years ago, he is still hugely influential and few players will be as heavily involved in the contact areas as he is.

Scotland have had the poorest return from their breakdown work with the most rucks lost and equal fewest turnovers won. There are some extenuating circumstances, with the Welsh performance pretty much a write-off in this area due to the referee’s approach.

Against France, Rory Darge was a menace over ball but he needs support from a wider group. The Scots also need to be far more efficient at protecting their own possession on the floor, not just from turnovers but to win the kind of quick ball that gives them the best chance of beating England’s defence on the outside.


  • Tommy Freeman is the only player in the Six Nations to make at least five dominant tackles. The Northampton winger is tasked with smothering attacks at the extremities of England’s defence and needs to hit hard to wrap up opponents and shut down options.
  • Maro Itoje has a winning percentage of 67% in Tests for England. There are only three countries against whom he has lost more than he has won. Of those three, his win percentage is lowest against Scotland – 33% (South Africa – 38%; Ireland – 45%).
  • England’s lineout has a better success rate (91.7%) than Scotland’s (80%). That’s at least partly a function of the English throw rarely going to the back of the lineout – 4% compared to 25% for the Scots, who are a little less risk-averse and keen to get the ball wide as quickly as possible.

Previous results

This will be the 13th time the two sides have played at Murrayfield in a Six Nations’ match. The head-to-head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:



Most recent Six Nations’ meeting in Edinburgh:

Scotland 20 – 17 England


Significant stat

28% – territory for Scotland in the first half. Despite having barely any time in the English end, as well as a much smaller share of possession (38%) than their opponents, the Scots still went into the break at the end of the first 40 minutes with a 10-6 lead.

That was in no small part due to a sterling defensive effort which saw just eight of 132 tackles missed by the home side. The visitors missed more than double (17) from a much lower number of attempts (112) and the efficiency of the Scottish attack in generating points edged them far enough in front of England to be able to hold out with one last big defensive stand to end the match.


Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland, seventh Six Nations match)
Assistant Referees  Chris Busby and Eoghan Cross (both Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Mr Brace and Mr Jonker were both on duty for Glasgow Warriors’ game at Scotstoun last Saturday. The stakes will be higher in front of a packed Murrayfield – although a similar margin of victory for the home side would certainly go down well!

Scotland Rugby News:

A wealth of previous experience with the referee in URC action will hopefully contribute to a positive dialogue as well as clarity about exactly what the officials are looking for in key areas, such as the breakdown and at the set-piece.