LONDON (Reuters) - No Scotland player set to line up against England at Twickenham on Saturday was born when their team last won south of the border 34 years ago, a factor that could be both a help and a hindrance for the surprise Six Nations contenders.
Hooker Ross Ford, 32, is likely to be the oldest in a youthful Scotland side that has already shocked Ireland and Wales this tournament.
With only one loss to France, Scotland lie in third, one point back from second-place Ireland and four behind table-toppers England, who are undefeated in the tournament and one win away from equalling a top tier world record of 18 consecutive victories set by New Zealand in 2016.
Given the last time Scotland won at Twickenham was in 1983, and none of the current England team have ever lost to Scotland, the odds for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup and triple crown contest are stacked against the visitors.
Yet the Scots, who have climbed to their highest world ranking of fifth, do not seem burdened by the weight of history.
“One of the big incentives is to stop their run,” centre Huw Jones, a 23-year old set to win his seventh Scotland cap, told the BBC.
“It’s not so much daunting, but quite exciting.”
Exciting Scotland certainly are, particularly in comparison to the years of dull fare when they routinely fought it out with Italy to avoid last place in the standings.
The guile of Jones, the evasive skills of fullback Stuart Hogg and the finishing abilities of wingers Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser, offer hope of an upset if they can stretch England and not get involved in a close-quarters brawl.
If the Scots embrace their underdog tag and play a care-free, loose game, they could be a dangerous proposition for a well-drilled England side who prefer a structured approach but who have been far from their best in their three games to date.
However, Scotland’s expansive style masks their fragility at the scrum, where the likes of 21-year-old Zander Fagerson has struggled, and the physical inferiority of their forwards.
French number eight Louis Picamoles constantly punched holes in Scotland’s defence in France’s 22-16 win in Paris. England’s equivalent Billy Vunipola, set to make his first appearance of the tournament, should do the same.
“Scotland have shown this season that they are a really good opportunistic rugby side,” former England coach Brian Ashton told The Scotsman.
“A side that is always looking to take chances when they are available,” he added.
“The forward power of England will probably tell in the end but I am saying that with far less certainty than I would have done before the tournament started.”
England have had scares this tournament with late wins over both France and Wales and a patchy first hour against Italy but their record under Eddie Jones, who opened his tenure with a 15–9 defeat of Scotland in last year’s Six Nations and has not lost a game since, speaks for itself.
The hosts undoubtedly have the pedigree and the mental edge.
None of the current crop of players were involved in the last defeat to Scotland, a 15-9 loss at Murrayfield in 2008. Only six remain from a drab 15-15 draw in Edinburgh in 2010.
The visitors bear the scars of their predecessors but that may make them dangerous. Throw caution to the wind and Scotland could just sneak the victory they need to stay on track for a maiden Six Nations title.
Editing by Ed Osmond