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Quiet men's talking is done on the field of play

A subsidiary point was made in emphatic fashion at Twickenham on Saturday but the real questions will be answered by rugby's oldest international rivals in the coming week after England defended the Calcutta Cup considerably more impressively than they had done in Edinburgh one year ago.

Ruaridh Jackson cannot shackle Owen Farrell
Ruaridh Jackson cannot shackle Owen Farrell

Wrongly derided as arrogant by Scots who should know better, the reality, on this evidence, is that England may actually be rather better than even they thought they were.

If not, then the only alternative is that Scotland may be even worse than was feared, particularly now that some long-lusted-after finishing power has been identified and unleashed.

Campaign-defining encounters lie ahead for both sides this weekend.

England visit an Ireland team that first showed its lethality when dismantling the Welsh on their own pitch, then evidenced a survival instinct when the defending Grand Slam champions rallied bravely, inventively, but all too belatedly.

Scotland host Italy in what can no longer be considered an automatic wooden spoon decider. This weekend's visitors to Edinburgh are now entitled to be considered worthy rivals to the other four countries, and Scotland must consider th e implications of the gulf in quality that has developed in the year since they took the field as favourites against England at Murrayfield.

During the intervening period the understated and methodical Stuart Lancaster has rapidly assembled a machine that is aiming to achieve maximum efficiency when England host the 2015 World Cup. However, already it looks to be purring along smoothly, and with a menacing power too.

Scotland, by contrast, have been forced to break down everything to component parts and those responsible for putting them back together must be scratching their heads and wondering if all the necessary bits are there.

"I think people underestimate how long it takes to pull a cohesive team together," was a comment which perhaps should have been made by Scott Johnson, Scotland's caretaker head coach. It came, however, from Lancaster, speaking both to his modesty and his awareness that, for all that they thrashed the world-champion All Blacks in the last of their autumn Tests and have started the RBS Six Nations Championship so well, his men cannot afford to get carried away.

In adding that the fortnight preceding Saturday's match had been invaluable – allowing them to go over the lessons learned in the autumn – the tone was that of one who had engaged in a crucial fine tuning process, again inviting inevitably unfavourable comparison with what confronts his Scottish counterpart.

Beaten to, or beaten up at, the breakdown and outplayed in the set piece, the Scots must reflect on the fact that the hugely increased attacking threat they now boast offers ever more cause for concern.

It would be wrong to get overexcited by them for a number of reasons, not least the knowledge that none of them would get into the Ireland team and the wingers would probably struggle to get into Ireland's second team, but the back three now boast real menace, as they demonstrated in the few chances that presented themselves. In particular Stuart Hogg, still only 20, offered the strongest evidence so far that he is going to be a player who raises Scottish spirits for many years to come.

He and Sean Maitland, whose debut try briefly gave his side the lead, may have made something of a meal of finishing that score.

However, the full-back's awareness of what was on and the fact that the latest recruit from the Scottish diaspora eventually did manage to get it over the line offered hope, all the more so when they then combined well for the second score, Maitland that time injecting the initial pace and Hogg the finish.

In between times however, the match had been taken away from them, because of their own blundering – most notably when Ruaridh Jackson, who had a pretty miserable afternoon, had a kick charged down midway inside his own half. England thereafter took charge.

Pressure partly explained the proliferation of penalties and, as ever, the referee seemed to favour the team he felt was in the ascendancy in his decision making, but too often field position and scoring opportunities were down to unnecessary Scottish mistakes as Owen Farrell was allowed to pile up the points.

England even looked fallible, making mistakes of their own until Chris Ashton's first-half try cancelled out that by his opposite number.

When Billy Twelvetrees took his turn to match his fellow debutant in marking his first appearance by crossing the opposition line, the contest was over with 38 minutes of the second half remaining.

The triple-miss pass with which Farrell sent in Geoff Parling to silence those who say his passing is a weakness subsequently confirmed his right to the man-of-the-match award and England's dominance was such that it was almost bizarre that Scotland came close to setting up a grandstand finish.

Had Johnnie Beattie, who did some fine things on his return after a two-year absence, collected a loose ball on the run midway inside his own half and fed the supporting Maitland, he would certainly have scored. There would have been just six points in it going into the final minute.

Instead, England clinically returned to the Scottish 22 where Danny Care nipped in for a try that allowed the scoreboard to reflect a little more accurately the gulf that has widened between these sides.

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