England can win a show of hands

Tony Underwood says Scotland's Auld Enemy showed enough in their purple patches to render talk of the Grand Slam premature
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So the Welsh "babies" failed to pull it off, but we must thank them for one of the most entertaining halves of rugby played at Twickenham.

Until Hemi Taylor's try most of their efforts were being thwarted and were actually providing England with opportunities to play off loose ball. However, Taylor's try, a bullocking effort sparked off by the nerve of Arwel Thomas, stimulated a response from England some thought had escaped them. Will Carling and Jeremy Guscott were both given their head to quite devastating effect and finally we could sense that the shackles were beginning to loosen.

At 21-8 the foot should have been kept firmly pressed on the accelerator, but instead caution brought it heavily down on to the brake.

What a pity. A late rally brought Wales uncomfortably close to snatching it and all. Hope and Glory was replaced by derision and disdain, something the team did not deserve given the kind of rugby they had produced earlier in the game.

Comfort should be drawn from that. Comfort and confidence. England looked like a team going places with the ball in hand, and, with Paul Grayson's kicking game restored, one hopes, to its normal excellence, England will have much to choose from against the Scots in a month's time.

And they will need it. Let it be said that as far the Scots are concerned your heart should rule over your head. After dousing the fire of the supposedly resurgent Irish a fortnight ago, on Saturday they went on to smother the spluttering French.

It is a pity that the French are still struggling to impose their superior footballing skills on the Five Nations at present, but let's face it, Murrayfield is not the place to find your feet. France may have dispelled the spectre of the English, but their continuing search for romance on the field is proving a touch frustrating for them.

However, this is not a prospect to encourage the Irish, the next visitors to the Parc des Princes. One wonders whether the rigid, disciplined efforts of their Kiwi coach are stifling the greatest strength of the Irish. Replace rehearsed with loose and disciplined with mayhem and you may see a different Ireland. They will need to be doing this at their creative best in Paris.

The Welsh will find it easier to perform against a less powerful pack than the English and we can expect to see some of the best games of this year's Five Nations wherever they perform. They have a huge decision to make, though, in whether or not to bring back the boot of Neil Jenkins at the expense of Arwel Thomas. In fact, I fear for the luckless Nigel Davies. I fancy Scotland in Cardiff, though.

Which leaves the prospect of a Scotland Grand Slam. A prospect undreamed of south of the Tweed on Burns night, let alone early January. The loss of Gavin Hastings is devastating, but massive too is the collective will of this side. Gregor Townsend is proving to be the force he always threatened to be and Michael Dods' points scoring will soon be surpassing the tally of even Big Gav.

A huge game may then await the English in Murrayfield in a month's time. At that stage every Scottish head will be saying "aye" to a victory, as well as their heart. Being favourites never suits the Scots and that allied, I am sure, with a new-found English confidence points, I believe, to dashed Scottish hopes. A dangerous thing for a man so near the border to say.

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