England go into the match as favourites to not only continue their relentless run of form over the Auld Enemy at home, but also to clinch a second successive Grand Slam providing they can also see off Ireland in next weekend’s Six Nations finale.
But while Eddie Jones’s side are not quite firing on all cylinders following three underwhelming yet victorious performances, Scotland are a side on the up. Wins over Wales and Ireland – in the same championship for the first time since their final victorious Five Nations campaign in 1999 – has jettisoned Vern Cotter’s side into title contention, and if they can end Jones’s unbeaten streak on Saturday, they will head into the final weekend with genuine hopes of claiming the spoils.
But that should be of no surprise, given their progress under the New Zealander, and star full-back Hogg – already on course to claim top tryscorer and a possible second consecutive Player of the Championship award – insists they are finally living up to their own expectations.
"We're more than capable of winning and we're going to do everything we can to make that happen,” Hogg said on the eve of the match.
"We talked a lot about our goals before the Six Nations and it's now about making those goals a reality. We're very much in a position to come down here and win - and nothing is going to stand in our way.”
The 24-year-old full-back has flourished under Cotter’s guidance, and he will expect to continue his rapid rise as he is currently firm favourite to take the No 15 jersey for this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour, providing he can hold off Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny.
Cotter will, of course, leave Scotland at the end of the Six Nations campaign, with former fly-half Gregor Townsend already named as his successor, and Hogg was quick to praise the steeliness that Cotter has instilled in the national squad which has helped transform them from also-rans to title contenders.
"We're very much a work in progress, but since Vern came in we've come on leaps and bounds,” he added.
"We're not just going to lie down and get our bellies tickled, we're going to go out and try to get some victories.
"Slowly but surely we're starting to get respect. Do other teams still underestimate us? Yeah, possibly, but that's up to them."
The one issue that could rob Hogg of a Lions starting spot though is his supposed defensive vulnerability when compared to Halfpenny. The Glasgow Warriors back is the first to admit that he expects England to test that notion to the limit on Saturday given the number of kicking options that the hosts will possess in their side – Owen Farrell’s fitness permitting – but he insists that he will not let the criticism detract from his strong points.
"Defensively I know I'll be challenged," he said. "There will be high balls. George Ford or Owen Farrell or Mike Brown will stick them on me.
"I'm fully aware of what's coming. But it's just about being mature in the situation and dealing with it. I'm sitting here shaking, I just can't wait to get out there to play.
"No-one is the complete player, there are always going to be weaknesses to your game. Yeah, you could say defence is one of mine.
Lions starting XV - Six Nations round three
Lions starting XV - Six Nations round three
1/15 15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Miles clear of Mike Brown and Rob Kearney and looks a much better option for running the ball than Leigh Halfpenny right now. Hogg has been nothing short of brilliant going forwards, and despite not possessing the kicking option or the defensive nous of Halfpenny, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet.
2/15 14. Liam Williams (Wales)
Ousts international teammate George North after the Northampton Saints wing proved anonymous against Scotland. Williams has scored a try in every round so far and is proving his weight in gold as a finisher, while he’s also accustomed to coming off his wing to find work.
3/15 13. Jonathan Davies (Wales)
He is still the safest option at outside centre, but the chasing pack are closing in after a strong weekend for 13s. Garry Ringsrose is improving with every week, while Huw Jones offers more with the ball in hand than Davies, whose powerful and direct running keep him in the side. Ben Te’o also showed what he can offer, though time is running out for him and Jonathan Joseph is likely to come back into the England side to face Scotland.
4/15 12. Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
Henshaw gives you the understanding with Jonathan Sexton combined with a player who not only thrives on front-foot ball but also can cope with beating the gain line when on the back-foot – a very handy trait to have in the locker. He can also cover at outside centre, which on a Lions tour is a major boost.
5/15 11. Elliot Daly (England)
Deals with every challenge thrown at him and crossed the try line for the second match running to help trigger the fightback against Italy. Possesses a reliable, howitzer of a left foot, which is Halfpenny is out of the side will be a useful tool in New Zealand.
6/15 10. Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Returned in style to force Owen Farrell out of the side and prove he will not give up the Lions 10 jersey easily. Injuries have dogged him this season, but it took him 40 minutes to show what he can offer as he got the Irish backline firing on all cylinders.
7/15 9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
Had Greig Laidlaw been available this week, Murray could still have forced his way back in to the side. A man-of-the-match display in Dublin – including the only try of the game – helped Ireland record back-to-back wins and his box-kicking remains the best in the business.
8/15 1. Mako Vunipola (England)
His impact from the bench was certainly noticeable as the English scrum finally got the better of the Italian pack, and with plenty of time for the loosehead to regain full fitness, there’s no reason why he won’t don the No 1 shirt on 24 June as long as he avoids any more setbacks.
9/15 2. Rory Best (Ireland)
He’s still ahead of Dylan Hartley, but Jamie George is breathing down his neck and it’s only down to Best’s strong performance against France – with a 100 per cent lineout record from 17 throws – and a solid defensive showing that keeps him in the side. With leaders elsewhere though, George might just find himself in favour come the end of the Six Nations.
10/15 3. Tadhg Furlong (Ireland)
He re-established the gap between himself and Dan Cole with a very impressive outing in the loose for Ireland, and he is also a third of one of Europe’s strongest front-rows right now.
11/15 4. Joe Launchbury (England)
The England lock has to come into the side after yet another man-of-the-match performance against Italy. The Wasps skipper is giving Warren Gatland plenty to think about, having proven himself in the lineout and also with his desire to carry. But with Alun Wyn Jones, Richie Gray, Devin Toner and Courtney Lawes also knocking on the door, not to mention the injured George Kruis hoping to somehow prove his fitness, it’s an awfully difficult task to pick the second-row.
12/15 5. Jonny Gray (Scotland)
Gray shifts from four to five but remains the standout option in the Six Nations based on the last three rounds. Having started the championship as possible squad inclusion, he’s suddenly looking undroppable from the first XV.
13/15 6. Maro Itoje (England)
Itoje offers too much to the squad to leave out. He packs down in the second-row for England, leads the lineout by example with another two steals at the weekend, and is both a formidable tackler and carrier. He simply has to slot in somewhere, and he’s currently making the No 6 shirt his own.
14/15 7. Justin Tipuric (Wales)
Tipuric holds onto the shirt despite experiencing a difficult week given that there is not much competition around. Neither James Haskell nor John Hardie – now out for the rest of the Six Nations – were able to take their chance at the weekend, and while Sean O’Brien and Hamish Watson impressed, you’d still rather have a livewire like Tipuric in the side.
15/15 8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)
Billy Vunipola finally drops out of the side after hinting that a Six Nations return may be beyond him. In comes Ireland’s vice-captain Jamie Heaslip, and with Taulupe Faletau yet to find his best from the replacements’ bench, it’s Heaslip who has led the way with strong outings against Italy and France.
"When things are going well there is always going to be someone to put you down. I'm fully aware that my defence isn't the strongest, but I'll continue to work on it."
Scotland will need the likes of Hogg, Finn Russell and Hamish Jones, three of their most potent weapons in differing areas of the game, to be on the money if they are to halt the England juggernaut under Jones. Do that, and they will head into a final weekend blown wide open with the chance to make history, all at England’s expense.Reuse content