England v Scotland is the oldest international fixture and also holds the oldest unbeaten record in the 6 nations as the home sides last defeat came about 32 years ago. Whenever one discusses matches between England and Scotland, the delicious stereotypes of the remorseless, powerful English and the wild-eyed Scots, hopelessly outnumbered underdog come to mind. In the history of the rugby fixture, the early years proved quite propitious for the Scots, winning more than they lost, even of the games that were played in England. Until, that is, 1911, when England settled into a permanent home at Twickenham. Since then Scotland have won four times south of the border and drawn five. And since 1983, as no Scot needs reminding, they have not won at all. Johnnie Beattie, playing No8 for Scotland this championship, but on the bench on Saturday has some kind of connection with winning at Twickenham, insofar as his father, John, played No8 in that last Scottish win, albeit two and a half years before Johnnie was born. Scotland’s win at Twickenham was their only victory of the 1983 championship, but it paved the way for a grand slam the following year, a feat they would repeat, of course, six years later in the 1990 Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield that needs no further introduction. A bitter irony of the long 32 years since 1983 is that it takes in some of the best sides Scotland have ever produced. Scotland have made five changes from the side that lost to Italy at Murrayfield in their latest quest to storm Twickenham. The Saracens lock Jim Hamilton returns, along with the No8 David Denton, while behind Dougie Fife replaces the injured wing Sean Lamont. Finn Russell has completed the two-week suspension imposed for a high tackle and Matt Scott takes over in the centre from Alex Dunbar, who has been ruled out for the season after suffering a knee injury in training.
A professional rugby pick would suggest a repeat of that famous 33-6 defeat as very improbable, and even an away win for the Scots could be too far fetched.
The best betting tips can predict that when Wales will face Ireland coach Warren Gatland will, for the first time, keep the roof of the Millennium stadium open for their match on Saturday, having always pressed for it to be shut. Under tournament rules, both sides must agree to the roof being closed and, after being rebuffed by England last month, Wales have taken the initiative and not given Ireland the option. Ireland have made one change from the team that beat England in the last round for a fixture they have lost only twice in Cardiff since 1983. Jamie Heaslip returns at No8 after recovering from an injury sustained when he was kneed in the back by the France second row Pascal Papé, who was subsequently banned for 10 weeks. A top rugby tipster has Ireland slightly favourite but Wales at home are unpredictable.
Meanwhile, France’s head coach, Philippe Saint-André, who publicly castigated his players after losing to Wales, has changed more than half his starting line-up for Sunday’s trip to Rome, where Les Bleus are looking to avoid a third successive defeat. The Azzurri go into the fourth round of the tournament on a high following their dramatic 22-19 win against Scotland in Edinburgh a fortnight ago. A professional betting tipster won’t forget that France have lost on their last two visits to Rome so an away victory might be a risky one.