Johnson gives little currency to bookies' odds-on predictions

England have found themselves up to their necks in Calcutta Cup trouble so often over the past couple of decades, Martin Johnson's refusal yesterday to shout the odds on behalf of his Grand Slam-chasing team ahead of this year's outbreak of mutual loathing was entirely understandable. Advised that the bookmakers were quoting the Six Nations favourites at 1-14 to beat the Scots at Twickenham on Sunday, the red-rose manager reminded his audience that "none of the bookies are playing the game" before adding: "If it will be a big result for them if they leave London with a victory, it will be just as big a result for us if we win."

By comparison, the Scottish camp were positively outspoken – an interesting approach, given the low-rent nature of their most recent Six Nations performances. "Will England treat us with the respect we deserve?" asked the defence coach Graham Steadman. "I'd have to question that. I'm sure they'll have one eye on the Grand Slam, and the bigger picture for them, I dare say, will be the fixture with Ireland over in Dublin. They will see that as more of a challenge than the one they're facing this weekend, but I know what the Scotland players are capable of delivering."

On the most recent evidence, they are most capable of delivering tries to the opposition, generally wrapped in nice little gift boxes with pink ribbons on top. Their defeat by the Irish last time out was an absolute shocker from a defensive point of view – or, if you prefer, from Steadman's point of view – and with Chris Ashton and Ben Foden currently spearheading England's attacking game with such panache, things are unlikely to be any easier for the Scots this weekend.

"They are playing with a lot of confidence, England, and they have strike runners right across the park," Steadman conceded. "If we're not well organised in broken-field situations, they'll cause us problems. Our transition from attack to defence has not been at the level we'd expect. At times we've been a little naive in putting ourselves under pressure by over-playing things in certain areas of the field, and we've been punished severely for it."

Yet for all that, the former rugby league coach was bullish about cramping Ashton's inimitable style. "He's on six tries for the tournament at present and I'd like to think it will stay at that," Steadman said. Red rag to a bull? We shall see.

Johnson shed precious little light on his selectorial thinking, but the decision to release the Sale outside-half Charlie Hodgson suggested that the first-choice playmaker Toby Flood, restricted to "limited training" because of an Achilles injury, will recover in time. There are doubts over the veteran lock Simon Shaw, who picked up a groin problem last week, so Courtney Lawes, fresh back in the squad after injury hassles of his own, may return to the mix. So too may another recent absentee, Tom Croft, following Hendre Fourie's return to Leeds for this weekend's important Premiership meeting with Northampton.

Whatever the shape of the line-up – Johnson, increasingly fond of leaving his announcement until the last possible moment, will declare his hand on Friday – there is an expectation in the England camp that this game will be easier on the eye than last year's drawn contest in Edinburgh. "When I look back on that, we spent the last three minutes in the Scotland half, two and a half minutes of which went on resetting scrums," the manager said. "This time, we have a referee [the Frenchman Romain Poite] who is very good in that area."

Victory assured, then? Hardly. "In many ways, this is an easy game for Scotland because everyone is talking about us," Johnson warned. "If we go in thinking 'they're not South Africa and they're not France' and they come down with the right mindset, we'll find ourselves in trouble very quickly. You need the right amount of edge and anxiety whenever you play at this level. Rugby is a game where you must impose your will and your desire before you can establish an advantage."

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower