Scotland’s comeback to retain the Calcutta Cup was a great moment of Rugby history, and it was no accident. The Scots used a combination of clever tactics and phenomenal individual skills to stay in the contest and claw back 31 points to draw the game. Here are the England v Scotland tactics you need to know.
This first tactic would jump-start Scotland’s comeback.
Finding Space Behind the Halfback | England v Scotland Tactics
Gregor Townsend must have noticed this small weakness in England’s defensive structure. As their no. 9 defends up in the line instead of sweeping in behind, there is a gap between the defensive line and the backfield defence.
Scotland tried to find this gap a few times, but Youngs was able to track back.
By the time the second half rolled around, Scotland would take their comeback up a notch by finally making this tactic work. This time the kick comes from their own no.9 Ali Price, leaving England with little time to react.
Bradbury then charges onto the ball from nowhere to score. This try signified that Scotland’s tactics were working, and they would score 4 tries within the next 11 minutes.
These 11 minutes would be dominated by Scotland’s no. 10, Finn Russell.
How Finn Russell Gained Control of the Game | England v Scotland Tactics
This piece of skill doesn’t require a whole lot of analysis. Russell flicks a cut-out pass over the English defence, creating unexpected space.
From a different perspective, we can see Jonny May was supposed to be covering. But he wasn’t expecting that pass, and he is in a very poor position. Even his pace can’t save a try now.
The next try would come soon after and would bear an eerie resemblance to another Finn Russell play during this tournament. England try to throw the ball to a pod, but it’s far too predictable. Russell has seen it all before and moves in for the intercept.
We all know a player with a natural knack for intercepts, and Finn Russell is one such player. You can check out his effort from a very similar position against Italy. It was so good, it’s almost like he’s playing in slow motion.
The comeback would be finished off by a skill that Scotland are bringing back in a big way.
The Dangerous Double-Pump Pass | England v Scotland Tactics
Making defenders hesitate is becoming increasingly important in this age of rush defences we are in. Scotland have developed an interesting way to do this, and they would use it with frequency against England.
The skill is a double pump pass. It’s just a dummy pass to a player, followed by an actual pass (usually to the same player). Below Russell dummies to Johnson, then looks behind him like he’s about to flick a pass out the back. The English defenders believe this lie fully.
Johnson receives a real pass and is shot into space. He then does what can only be described as a Jonah Lomu impression by bumping off multiple players to score. An incredible try.
The double-pumps continued below as Russell this time fakes a pass before throwing one wide.
And it wasn’t just limited to Finn Russell. Much of the Scottish team was using the double-pump pass to hold up the English defence.
Below Price gets in on the act with a dummy pass that causes hesitation in the English line. Johnson benefits again and takes advantage of the half-gap that was created.
We have now seen a few antidotes to the rush defence during this 6 Nations. Wales decided not to face it at all and instead beat up the English defence with pick & go’s. Now Scotland are using these subtle passing skills to keep defenders guessing.
Do you think Scotland were brilliant in the second half? Or were England at fault for letting this game go? Leave your thoughts below.
Author: The 1014 Rugby and Henry Stokes