The England-Scotland encounter is the oldest in international rugby, and Martin Johnson expects his English side to face a “battle” against Scotland in their decisive Pool B game in Auckland on Saturday.
With Argentina odds-on to get the qualifying points they need against Georgia on Sunday, it is either England or Scotland who will be likely to pack their bags for the long journey home from New Zealand after they meet.
England will still qualify if they earn a losing bonus point, with Scotland needing a winning margin of at least eight points to have any chance of progression.
The reward for a Scotland upset win would most likely be a quarter final tie against the tournament hosts, the All Blacks.
“It’s not a pile of points. Eight points, we need, it’s not a massive difference,” Scottish international Sean Lamont says. “England can leak tries and they’ve shown in this tournament that they can concede (penalties), so there’s no reason why we can’t get a few points against them.”
England have twice made the headlines for the wrong reasons during the tournament; firstly following the conduct of captain Mike Tindall after a colourful squad outing to a nightclub in Queenstown, and now Thursday’s suspension of two of their coaching staff who were caught illegally switching match balls to ones they believed to be superior to the others for kicking with to aide Johnny Wilkinson during the World Cup match against Romania. (The regulations state that the ball that was used to score a try must be the one put on the tee by the player taking the conversion.)
Johnson and his team will be hoping that by the final whistle on Saturday morning, they will be making the pages of newspapers for the right reasons, and drawing a line under all the recent controversies.
England team: B Foden; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, M Tindall, D Armitage; J Wilkinson, B Youngs; M Stevens, S Thompson, D Cole, L Deacon, C Lawes, T Croft, L Moody (capt), J Haskell.
Replacements: D Hartley, A Corbisiero, T Palmer, N Easter, R Wigglesworth, T Flood, M Banahan.
Scotland team: C Paterson; M Evans, J Ansbro, S Lamont, S Danielli; R Jackson, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), A Strokosch , J Barclay, R Vernon.
Replacements: S Lawson, A Dickinson, N Hines, R Rennie, C Cusiter, D Parks, N De Luca.