Ex-Scotland forward piles pressure on Gregor Townsend’s side in ‘hit or bust’ clash with England

Colin Newboult
Gregor Townsend before Scotland's Six Nations match with Wales in 2024.

Gregor Townsend before Scotland's Six Nations match with Wales in 2024.

Former Scotland number eight Johnnie Beattie believes that it is “hit or bust” for the team ahead of their showdown with England at Murrayfield.

The Scots entered the 2024 Six Nations as one of the few sides with continuity following the Rugby World Cup, but they could be out of the title picture by the end of the weekend.

Their campaign started well enough after a 27-26 victory – even if their collapse almost led to a shock Wales victory – but they followed that up by disappointedly losing 20-16 to France.

Disallowed try

Although many have pointed to the controversial decision at the end of the game, which disallowed what would have been a match-winning try, Scotland should have been well out of sight by that point.

Gregor Townsend’s men were the better team for much of that Six Nations contest, but too many errors enabled Les Bleus back into the match.

Next up is an encounter against the Auld Enemy, England, who have not beaten the Scotsmen since 2020.

Scotland have won three in a row versus the Red Rose and Beattie insists that the pressure is on for Townsend’s charges make it four this weekend.

“We all know good Scotland can be – England certainly know – but the years are running out for some guys in the team,” he wrote in his BBC Sport column.

“They need to win this Test match not just to keep their hopes alive this season but to prove to themselves they’ve stepped up and are now contenders. The loss to France was a big blow. They cannot suffer another one.

“So it’s hit or bust for Scotland. If they win then they kick on to Rome with confidence. If they lose then I don’t know what kind of damage will be done to their belief. There will be a bitter taste.

“I’d also say the stakes are higher for Scotland. Having lost that hugely controversial game against France, they can’t afford to lose again.

“Another defeat and it’s the end of their hopes of getting to Dublin on the last weekend with something tangible to play for. This is must-win. There’s no hiding from that.”

“Fearless, creative, powerful, accurate”

Beattie has no doubts about the individual talent within the squad and hopes that they show that quality on Saturday.

“I’ve said repeatedly this is the best collection of Scottish players I’ve seen. They’ve done things the team I played on never did. They’ve won in places we couldn’t. They have played a brand of rugby that is, at its best, mesmerising,” he said.

“Think back to the Calcutta Cup last year, not only to Duhan van der Merwe’s unbelievable solo run, but to the team try that won the match at the end. It was a score of breathtaking quality.

“That’s the kind of Scotland we need to see at Murrayfield. Fearless, creative, powerful, accurate.

“England are building a new team and a new identity. Judging by their first two games, they have a way to go yet. They almost got to a World Cup final by playing – let’s be honest here – dismal rugby.

“They have a new blitz defence under Felix Jones, the Irishman who was on the coaching ticket when South Africa won the World Cup last year. They’re trying to introduce it but the players are not yet used to it. Defensively, they’re not settled.”

Scotland have named a strong team for the encounter, with Blair Kinghorn returning at full-back to bolster what is an already talented backline.


Townsend’s men will be favourites against an England side still finding their feet under the new regime, but Beattie is wary of the threat the Red Rose will bring.

“Scotland can be inspiring in a way this England team rarely are. Scotland have more tries in them, more attacking brilliance, more licence to create,” he added.

“As a team, they have more cohesion. Much of this side have been together for quite a long time in rugby terms.

“Everything points to a home win, but the warning signs are not hard to spot for Scotland. The visitors look a stuffy side, but they have a lot of individual class, forward power and canny operators.

“They haven’t been impressive in their first two games but they’ve won both of them. They’re the underdogs and they may feed off that.”

READ MORE: Expert Witness: Chris Paterson on how Scotland can negate England’s ‘exceptional’ line speed in Calcutta Cup