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Nic Ladds 19th Mar 2009 - 19:05

Croft can help deliver real beating to Scotland

If it weren't for the capitulation of France last week, it would take brave person to lump on England at odds of 1/8 to beat Scotland.

Before last week England had been a mess with discipline non-existent and poor results mounting up.

Fortunately they did get it right against the French by playing simply rugby and not giving away a host of needless penalties.

If Martin Johnson can get them to employ the same approach against 9/2 underdogs Scotland, then a facile victory could be on the cards.

Scotland have won this fixture last year and in 2006, however both those meetings were at Murrayfield and it is worth nothing the Scots have an atrocious record when visiting Twickenham.

They have been beaten by over 20 points in each of their last four visits to 'Headquarters' and in each of those games England have put 40 points past them.

With this in mind, England should make a mockery of the 13 points they are giving up on the handicap at odds of 10/11 while the away side are also 10/11 in receipt of 13 points, and the alternative handicaps may appeal to some including England at 6/4 giving up 18 points.

If Frank Hadden's side are to make a contest of this they need to hope their forward perform better than they have done so far. Ireland turned the ball over seven times against Scotland while England managed to turn the dismal French over 13 times.

If the back row of Joe Worsley, Nick Easter and the excellent Tom Croft play anywhere near like they did last week, Scotland don't stand a chance a huge score could begin to pile up.

Home team winning margins of 16-20 at odds of 5/1, 21-25 at 6/1 look about right or if you think England can run 40 plus points over again to little reply then 41-45 is 25/1.

The Scots have a chance if England's poor discipline creeps back in to their game in which instance Scotland have arguably the world's best kicker Chris Paterson to call on who will not be as wasteful with kicks as Ronan O'Gara was when Ireland just beat England by what should have been a lot more than a point.

The fast start England made against France could be repeated in which case an England try being the first scoring play at 7/2 could be a good bet or alternatively a Scotland penalty is 15/8.

Delon Armitage has been fantastic so far this tournament and is 12/1 in the betting to add to his three tries and score the first try of the game with wingers Mark Cueto and Ugo Monye both 9/1.

If the English back three operate as efficiently as they did against the French, any of them could get on the score sheet and an investment in Tom Croft to score anytime at 7/2 looks a fair price. He scored against France only to have the play pulled back and will be hungry to impress even more and keep his place ahead of James Haskell.

The Scots look like they will struggle to put many points on the board and their best hope will be if they can get ball to wingers Thom Evans and Simon Danielli who have both scored this tournament and are 10/3 and 7/2 respectively to cross the line anytime during the game.

How much ball these two will see though is questionable if the English put in another performance like they did in the first half against France in which case the game will be all but over come half time.

It will silence a lot of the critics if England put in another heroic performance and run out easy victors. You get the feeling though there is still a long way to go and it will take more than a brace of victories at Twickenham to erase all doubts.

Scotland will be praying England slip back to their old ways and give away silly penalties but realistically the home side should be able to cover themselves in more glory and leave English fans dreaming of possible glory next year.

Tom Croft to score anytime - 7/2
England -18 points - 6/4

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