Scotland v England: Jones' side to be pushed all the way in Six Nations at Murrayfield
England lost their Six Nations opener in France and Simon Mail thinks the team will face another challenge in Scotland this weekend...
Scotland v England Saturday, 16:45 Live on BBC One
England need reaction after France blow
England's Six Nations hopes suffered a major setback after their opening defeat in France. Eddie Jones watched his team unravel in Paris with a forgettable first-half performance leading to their 24-17 loss. Trailing 17-0 at half-time, the World Cup finalists gave themselves too much to do and now face a tricky trip to fierce rivals Scotland this weekend.
It was the first time since 1988 England had been kept scoreless during the first half of a match in this competition. Jones' pre-game talk of unleashing brutal physicality on France backfired as his team were punished by a vibrant France side. Jonny May's two individual tries salvaged a losing bonus point but could not paper over the cracks in a worrying performance.
England make five changes for this weekend's game at Murrayfield with Willi Heinz starting at scrum-half as Ben Youngs is dropped. Flanker Lewis Ludlam comes in for Courtney Lawes while prop Mako Vunipola and lock George Kruis return. Manu Tuilagi suffered a groin injury against France and the centre misses this match with Jonathan Joseph taking his place.
Scotland beaten despite improved showing
Scotland came into the Six Nations under a cloud after a poor World Cup campaign and the absence of Finn Russell due to his recent disciplinary breach. It is fair to say expectations were low but Scotland produced an encouraging performance, albeit a losing one, in their 19-12 defeat to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
Too often Scotland have folded meekly in away games but Gregor Townsend's side certainly could not be accused of this against Ireland. Scotland took the game to their opponents and had numerous opportunities to score, none more so than captain Stuart Hogg's knock-on over the line in the second half. It was a promising performance overall but Scotland will need to be clinical if they are to topple England.
Townsend has made only one change from the team's opening match with Edinburgh flanker Magnus Bradbury coming into the back row in place of Nick Haining. With playmaker Russell still deemed unavailable, Adam Hastings continues at fly-half and the 23-year-old showed plenty of ability and composure last weekend in Ireland.
Scotland are bidding to keep the Calcutta Cup for the third successive year after avoiding defeat in their last two games against England. An extraordinary match at Twickenham last season saw Scotland fight back from 31-0 down to lead before England salvaged a 38-38 draw. It followed on from Scotland's 25-13 home win over England two years ago.
England have won on just three of their last seven visits to Murrayfield and were beaten by Scotland on their last trip north of the border. This suggests odds of 1.38 are too short this weekend and the favourites could easily slip up again. England may produce a reaction after their misery in France but they have shown weaknesses which Scotland could expose, with strong winds from Storm Ciara likely to lead to an attritional battle.
With a win record of just 42 per cent away to Scotland, this has proved a troublesome fixture for England. In six of the last seven clashes at Murrayfield, Scotland have lost by no more than seven points. With this in mind, along with doubts about the state of England, Scotland are worth backing with a handicap advantage of eight points. The hosts may fall just short of the victory but should keep this close.