Six Nations: Passion not enough for Scotland - Mike Blair

By Mike BlairFormer Scotland scrum-half
Scotland welcome fly-half Finn Russell back from a ban as they seek a first Six Nations win
Scotland welcome fly-half Finn Russell back from a ban as they seek a first Six Nations win

People love records and statistics; some tell a story, some an interesting comparison and others have barely any relevance.

Scotland have not won at Twickenham for 32 years. To soften this slightly, this fixture is played there every other year so it's "only" 16 games without a victory and England didn't win in Edinburgh between 2004 and 2012.

You can see how statistics can be manipulated, but there's no hiding from the fact Scotland are underdogs on Saturday, historically and currently - but that's the way we like it, isn't it?

Backs-to-the-wall, no one expecting anything but a loss - Scotland love having a point to prove and actually struggle more when they are the favourites.

In international rugby, games are not won by passion and will to win, alone. Sure, they help, but tactically and technically you need everyone on page.

An example of this is defending the driving maul, a tactic the Italian pack performed admirably and Jim Hamilton's selection will help in this department. Some players are just built for the job, Simon Taylor and Nathan Hines were kings of the 'sacking' of a maul, or the 'cumberland' as was the call for the Scottish squad a number of years ago.

Much of the sacking of a maul is putting your head and body in uncomfortable places and working really hard, but there is a skill to the timing and transference of weight. Hamilton has that skill and he will help in this department.

His reputation as a strong scrummaging tight-head lock will be key too, against a very powerful English unit.

Scotland lock Jim Hamilton
Jim Hamilton brings experience and good scrummaging skills to the Scotland second row

My main defensive concern leading into this game is the threat of the English three-quarters, in particular, George Ford and Jonathan Joseph.

On front-foot ball and with time they can be devastating. Ford is a very good decision-maker, quicker than he looks and when he plays with confidence he is comfortably one of the best 10's in Europe. His style of play, skill set and frame are actually very similar to Finn Russell.

Joseph has added a new dimension to England's attack. He has a classic outside break and is very light on his feet.

Where recently the backs had looked a bit one dimensional, Joseph's introduction this year has created a very balanced attacking unit. Ford and Joseph can't be allowed time to play, so defensive line speed must be increased and the Scottish forwards must prevent him from having an armchair ride, by pressurising the breakdowns and upsetting Ben Youngs's flow.

Ireland were able to suffocate the English attack first and foremost by their kicking game and not giving them easy counter-attack ball. They hit competitive kicks from a mixture of nine and 10, chased hard, often regaining possession but, if losing the aerial contest, attacked the ruck hard enough that the English had to over commit to the breakdown and couldn't find their attacking shape as a consequence.

Dougie Fife has probably won the nod over Tim Visser in the backs because of his stronger aerial game and kick chase. Scotland will need an excellent kicking game to limit their opposition's counter attacking opportunities.

Scotland winger Dougie Fife
Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife will win his fifth Scotland cap at Twickenham

Dave Denton has been added for his carrying ability. Johnnie Beattie has been quiet and Denton will be told to get his hands on the ball as much as possible, especially with the very unfortunate injury to the principle power runner, Alex Dunbar, in the backs.

Matt Scott showed some great touches for Edinburgh against Treviso last weekend so it is brilliant that he comes back into the starting line-up with plenty of confidence and he will help out Russell with his distributing game.

There might be some opportunities for Scott and the Scottish wingers if they pick their times right.

Courtney Lawes's great strength is his ability to smash opposition number 10's but he will come out of the defensive line to do so which creates space on either side of him. It's small margins though and Russell will be under pressure but he seems to enjoy the rough and tumble.

Two ambitious, attacking teams desperate to get back to winning ways and to prove a point to their supporters and coaches. Should be a great game.