Calcutta Cup: Head-to-head
RATINGS PREVIEW: It may have been a rather one-sided match-up in recent years, but there is still something very special about a Calcutta Cup clash between Scotland and England, especially one played at Murrayfield.
For Scotland, it is their greatest rivals coming to town and a game which, if won, can uplift even the direst of campaigns, whilst for England, it has become a stern test of the sizeable expectations which get heaped upon the side and nothing less than a win, preferably a convincing one, will do.
Both sides have now been named for Saturday’s clash in Edinburgh and we have run the rule over both XVs to see which team comes out on top heading into the contest.
- Stuart Hogg 8.5 vs Mike Brown 7.5
A quick look at the weather forecast shows a dry, sunny day in Edinburgh on Saturday, otherwise these ratings could be reversed. The semi-regular defensive lapses are all that prevents Hogg from taking a spot alongside Ben Smith as the world’s best full-back, but his attacking game is peerless in the northern hemisphere. Brown is more reliable but can’t create space and attacking opportunities out wide like Hogg can.
- Tommy Seymour 7.5 vs Anthony Watson 8
There is a similarity to Hogg vs Brown here, in that Watson arguably edges Seymour defensively, especially with his cover defence, but the difference is that he offers just as much with ball-in-hand as the Scotsman. Watson also has his ability as a counter-attacker to throw into the mix.
- Huw Jones 8 vs Jonathan Joseph 8
This is an even contest, with Joseph perhaps shading the match-up in terms of his defence, whilst Jones can influence the game in attack more proficiently whilst his side are on the back-foot. Both players will be reliant on what their teammates do around them, but both can land a knockout punch if given the opportunity.
- Pete Horne 6.5 vs Owen Farrell 8.5
Scotland will miss Alex Dunbar’s defensive ability here, despite his horror show at Twickenham last year. Horne is a good rugby player and shouldn’t be underestimated, but Farrell is an exceptional one. This is one of the few match-ups in this game where there is a clear disparity between the two teams.
- Sean Maitland 8 vs Jonny May 7.5
Maitland was no slouch in defence before his move to Saracens, but it has certainly improved his positioning and work rate when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. This is just enough to give Maitland the edge here, with May still prone to the odd error here and there.
- Finn Russell 7.5 vs George Ford 8
Russell has been the target of some flak over the last couple of weeks, following two less than measured performances in the opening two rounds of the Six Nations. Ford, on the other hand, played his hand well against Wales and showed the control he was often critiqued for not having earlier in his career. Both players have the capability to be game-winners, but Ford’s form shades this one for him.
- Greig Laidlaw 7.5 vs Danny Care 7
Two very contrasting scrum-halves, coming off of very contrasting performances. Promoted to starter in the absence of Ben Youngs against Wales, Care wasn’t quite able to inject the same tempo into the game from the start that he usually does from the bench, whilst the more controlled Laidlaw provided the impetus to get Scotland over the line against France. Care will need to manage the game better this week if England are to return from Murrayfield triumphant.
- Gordon Reid 7 vs Mako Vunipola 8.5
The worrying factor for Reid here could be, just how much did Vunipola learn from the two days spent scrummaging against the Georgian pack last week? Obviously these two don’t go directly head-to-head in the scrum, but if there was one edge that Reid might have been able to claim, it would be in his scrummaging. Vunipola comes in off the back of two very impressive performances.
- Stuart McInally 7 vs Dylan Hartley 7.5
McInally has been throwing well at the lineout but Hartley has a 100% record with his throwing over the first two games and there has been a clear and effective chemistry with England’s three top jumpers. Neither player is the most rambunctious in the loose, but they do their job well.
- Simon Berghan 6.5 vs Dan Cole 7.5
Scotland are really taking a hammering in these front-row ratings and it shows just how much they have been hamstrung by injuries at the position. Berghan is relatively inexperienced at this level, whilst his opposite number has 79 caps and two Lions tours worth of experience to call upon.
- Grant Gilchrist 7.5 vs Joe Launchbury 8
Launchbury has stepped up as a carrier for England over their opening two games, providing plenty of go forward around the fringes and usually emptying the tank at about the 60-minute mark. Gilchrist will keep Scotland functioning at the set-piece, but in terms of overall impact on the game, he could fall just short of Launchbury.
- Jonny Gray 8 vs Maro Itoje 8.5
The two young second row talismans are fairly evenly matched, with the Englishman just edging the contest with his defensive lineout work and line speed, both in the defensive line and as a chaser. Gray is no fool in these areas, either, so don’t expect a clear advantage for Itoje, just a minor one. This could be one of the most interesting contests to watch at Murrayfield.
- John Barclay 8 vs Courtney Lawes 7.5
Two very contrasting flankers, with Barclay an added threat at the breakdown, whilst Lawes brings the power of the second-row to the loose trio. Barclay will hope to exploit England’s ill-discipline around the contact area and could well prove to be a hard-to-remove thorn in the visitors’ sides on Saturday. Lawes has been a solid, hard-working, nuts and bolts type so far this tournament, without bringing his usual “highlight plays” to the mix.
- Hamish Watson 7.5 vs Chris Robshaw 7.5
Both these flankers’ contributions to their sides go relatively underappreciated, with the clearing, tackling and pick and goes that don’t wow on the stats sheet or in the highlights, but are vital to a team staying on the front foot. Robshaw will likely win the work rate and leadership battles, whilst Watson is the more dynamic player, making this an even contest.
- Ryan Wilson 7.5 vs Nathan Hughes 7.5
We’re going conservative with Hughes here, who is playing in his first Test since returning from injury, so a level of rust and lack of conditioning is to be expected. If he hits the ground running, however, this match-up could look significantly different. Wilson is a fine player, but he doesn’t have the same line-breaking ability that Hughes has, nor is he able to keep phases alive and defences on the back foot as successfully as his opponent.
Scotland – 112.5
England – 117