Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


England v Scotland, Six Nations 2019: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Edinburgh, UK. February 06, 2016. Action from Scotland vs England in the RBS Six Nations Championship at BT Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. (c) ALASTAIR ROSS | Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Scotland and England will meet for what will be both sides’ 100th match in this tournament since it expanded to become the Six Nations. It’s never been easy for fans of the dark blues over the past 20 seasons with just 28 wins from those previous 99 games to show for their efforts. No-one’s suggesting just lying down and accepting defeat but ultimately there should be some enjoyment from what is one of the great sporting events – win, lose or draw.

Given the scale of changes currently being proposed for the Six Nations, who knows where the championship will be if it hits 200 games played in 2038. For players and fans alike, live for the moment and make the most of what we have right now – no matter how painful!

Here’s how the two sides who are set to entertain on Saturday match up:

Tale of the tape

86   Tries  23
96kg   Average weight   90kg
310   Total caps  126
143   6N caps  62
27.5   Average age   26.6

929kg   Pack weight  889kg
15   Tries   14
213   Total caps  159
6N caps   65
27.2   Average age   27.4

203   Total caps  251
6N caps  113
 Tries  14
27.8   Average age   29.0

6 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Wales)

  • 15 – Maitland for Kinghorn [=]
  • 11/14 – McGuigan for Seymour [-]
  • 12 – Johnson for Horne [=]
  • 5 – Toolis for Gray [=]
  • 6/8 – Skinner for Strauss with Bradbury to 8 [+]
  • 7 – Watson for Ritchie [+]

15 Elliot Daly
14 Jack Nowell
13 Henry Slade
12 Manu Tuilagi
11 Jonny May
10 Owen Farrell (c)
9 Ben Youngs
ADV England
ADV England
ADV England
ADV England
15 Sean Maitland
14 Darcy Graham
13 Nick Grigg
12 Sam Johnson
11 Byron McGuigan
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price

1 Ben Moon
2 Jamie George
3 Kyle Sinckler
4 Joe Launchbury
5 George Kruis
6 Mark Wilson
7 Tom Curry
8 Billy Vunipola

ADV Scotland
ADV England
ADV Scotland
ADV England
ADV Scotland
ADV England

1 Allan Dell
2 Stuart McInally (c)
3 Willem Nel
4 Ben Toolis
5 Grant Gilchrist
6 Sam Skinner
7 Hamish Watson
8 Magnus Bradbury

16 L Cowan-Dickie
17 Ellis Genge
18 Dan Cole
19 Brad Shields
20 Nathan Hughes
21 Ben Spencer
22 George Ford
23 Ben Te’o

ADV Scotland
ADV England
ADV England
ADV Scotland
ADV England
ADV Scotland
ADV England

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 Simon Berghan
19 Jonny Gray
20 Josh Strauss
21 Greig Laidlaw
22 Adam Hastings
23 Chris Harris


Backs – advantage England

With not one of Scotland’s first choice backs managing to start every game in the tournament opportunity has been knocking all over the place. Darcy Graham in particular has grabbed his chance with both hands. The Sick Jigg pairing in the centres – forged firstly at Stirling County, then Glasgow Warriors and now this season at Test level – really needs a statement game against an excellent English duo.

As is so often the case the two sets of half backs will dictate much of the play. Can Finn Russell find enough magic to unlock a defence for more than the single try Scotland have managed in their last 3 outings? Will Owen Farrell be able to adapt to changing circumstances more effectively than he did against Wales? And will either Ben Youngs or Ali Price stop yapping at any point during their time on the pitch?

Forwards – even

Scotland’s back row looks better balanced this week with a work horse in the shape of Sam Skinner a better foil for Magnus Bradbury than Josh Strauss – who plays a pretty similar style and role. They’ll have their work cut out against an energetic English breakaway trio. Wilson and Curry are the top two tacklers in the tournament. Vunipola has the most carries.

The Scottish tight five is closer to full strength than their opponents. Can Rambo McInally et al take advantage of this in the setpeice and around the park?

Subs – advantage England

This week’s bench is the most experienced named by Gregor Townsend for a Six Nations’ game. In fact this week’s replacements have more than three times as many caps as the group that were listed as subs for the Round 1 game against Italy.

Hopefully Scotland get a touch more good fortune with injuries this week and the head coach has the chance to manage his reserves rather than just having to react to more and more early departures!


– Mako Vunipola and Maro Itoje are the only English alterations from their XV for the Round 1 game against Ireland. By contrast the Scotland lineup features 7 changes from their opening fixture versus Italy (Hogg, Seymour, Jones, Kinghorn, Laidlaw, Ritchie and Wilson all started that game).

–  Scotland have used 37 different players in this season’s Six Nations. The equivalent number for the 2018 tournament was 29.

Allan Dell, Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist are the only players to start all 5 matches in this season’s championship for Scotland.

– How much relevance does the 2017 shellacking at Twickenham hold? Only 3 Scottish starters from that day also start on Saturday (Russell, Price and Watson). Just 5 Englishman will be on from the beginning for the 2019 fixture having done the same 2 years ago (Nowell, Daly, Farrell, Youngs & Launchbury).

– Farrell, May and Launchbury were the only Englishman from this year’s XV who started last season’s defeat for England at Murrayfield.

Missed Part 1? Check it out here with a scouting report on England and Scottish history with the referee, Mr. Williams.

88 Responses

  1. Sorry have I read that right. Have you put Gilchrist ahead of Kruis. No way, Kruis is superbly consistent and offers a bit of that nastiness that Gilchrist does not.

    1. Have to admit that nastiness is not a characteristic I’ve associated with Kruis. Cool-headed, excellent lineout technician. Not much of a carrier. Makes his tackles and hits rucks. A perfect foil for an Itoje or a Lawes who bring a serious edge to the game.

      Right now Gilchrist is comfortably Scotland’s first choice lock. In the form of his life for club and country this season. Better than when he was close to a move to Toulon (before injury intervened). Better than when he was made Scotland captain (before injury intervened). I’d give him the edge over England’s 3rd (at best) lock with, for me, Kruis not having hit the same heights he did a couple of years back before injuries intruded and the Lions’ tour maybe knocked his confidence a bit.

  2. I think Daly and Kruis are probably better than their Scottish counterparts, and Nel’s better than Sinckler, but otherwise this is spot on!

  3. “It’s never been easy for fans of the dark blues over the past 20 seasons with just 28 wins to show for their efforts.”

    28 wins in only 20 seasons…..I take it back. BRING IT ON. EASY EASY EASY !

    *I think your numbers are a bit off, or you mean vs everyone not just England ;)

  4. I think its pretty close between the hookers. George might even edge it with better lineout throwing. Our front row is pretty good now.

    Not sold on Cole and Genge and haven’t been since Glasgow took them apart a couple of years ago. I would say the bench for both teams is a bit of a mixed bag. Hastings is the only one there likely to set hearts racing!

    I’m probably cursing it now but I don’t think Vunipola is quite the player he was either. Fagerson managed to get hold of him and subdue him in the European games for Glasgow and you would fancy this back row to do the same. The breakdown contest will be close though.

  5. Yes, sorry – I’m no England fanboy, but Kruis is w-a-a-a-a-y better than Gilchrist….and therefore the conclusion that Scotland are about even in the pack is also a stretch.

    Hamish Watson is a bit of a phenomenon right now and McInally can make a real difference….beyond that, hard to point to any real stars or game-changers in the Scotland pack.

    I’d dearly love to see an upset tomorrow and 6 Nations Rugby is a pretty unpredictable game so nothing is impossible, but on a cold clinical analysis of the facts and form it’s hard to see anything but a comfortable England win. Unfortunately, I see an outside chance it could be a 40-50 point embarrassment if England get a score or two really early on and Scotland start to panic. England are far from un-stoppable, but they are going to be hard to hold back if they get their tails up and have their monster size ball carriers running hard at the lightweight Scottish backs.

    I guess we’ll see. Let’s hope it’s a real competitive battle. a cricket score victory for England isn’t good for the Six Nations.

    1. I dont think Kruis is way better than Gilchrist at the moment. Gilchrist has a looked pretty solid all 6N. Kruis has been a good player in past but seems to be lacking form for a while now…imo..fairly even at the mo Id say.

      McInally id say is a far better overall rugby player than George…who I just dont get why he gets so many raves. His physique looks more suited to darts than a modern day hooker. His lineup throws are probably better though..Ill give him that…but around the park…nah…McInally any day of week. In fact I wouldn’t trade any of Scotlands front row for Englands.

      Watson… I feel people are exaggerating based on his performance against Wales a little.
      He came on as an impact sub…and looked great for 20 mins…lets see how he goes from the start against a bruiser of a back row.
      Our best 7 but he’ll need great performances from Bradbury and Skinner …to have the platform to shine. If those 3 play great games…we have a chance.

      Centre is biggest worry…and how rusty is Maitland at FB? I can see England powering through the Scotland midfield…so hope GT has a cunning plan to counteract that and it is effective otherwise its good night after 20 mins.

  6. @Ruggersb. Yes, I’d agree with you on McInally and George….. it is tempting to look at George and wonder what’s the big deal… ? but I guess he’s highly rated by various professional coaches so they must know something that isn’t obviously apparent to the armchair pundit watching on TV. and I’m happy to admit the coaches know a heck a lot more than I do about rugby..

    I do think McInally looks pretty dynamic and rarely has a bad game. He seems to be the sort of character to step up in a big game like this and hopefully inspire those around him.

    I do get where you are coming from with Hamish and not wanting to get too carried away with the hype based on one cameo, but I also remember him being one of the few players from Scotland’s humiliation last year in Cardiff who looked any good. That’s usually the mark of a stand-out player, when they can still look good in a team that is getting overwhelmed.

    1. yeah fair enough….id say tho that some of the england players get far too much UK media praise and rating simply because they play for an improving england team.

      There are impressive aspects of the current england team…notably through the middle and an improving back division mainly due to their new attack coach.
      I actually think tho that their front pack is weaker than when we played them last year….especially without Itoje and Lawes …and Wilson for eg plays for the same struggling Newcastle team as Hardie, Graham and Harris …none of whom are our 1st choice. Is he better than what we have selected?….doubt it.
      Not saying we are a better team…or have better players…but there isn’t a huge diff even with our injuries.
      If we fix our mental approach and defensive structure we have a better chance than many are giving us credit for.
      I thought we gave Wales a physically tougher time of it in the second half than England did.

  7. I think if we play at our best we can cut off the English players p.enises and eat them. Yummy yummy in our tummies. Scotland by 10.

  8. It’s not asking too much not to be screwed by injuries and the rub of the green again. That combined with being a bit more clinical in the red zone and I fancy us to do well, maybe even win at a generous 11/1. I feel confident about this one.

    Kinghorn has had an op and is out for the season. It did look madness to leave him on limping for about 10 minutes, what were the coaching staff thinking?

      1. Devastating. He’s not been at his best this season but was still good. That’s a real shame.

  9. I have just read the BBC Sport website and the derogatory remarks from Eddie Jones. Does he understand anything about this competition? I hope we beat the living daylights out of England

    1. Jones is a good coach & likely a nice man. However what he is as a radio/television pundit is an annoying twisted weasel of a man. I suggest everyone follows my lead and mutes him the instant he speaks.

      1. I don’t think it’s likely that he’s a nice man. Possible, but not likely. And I’ve been muting him and Gatland for years.

  10. There’s not a single player in our 23 who would get in the English 23. Watson included.

    1. F off you seriously think Curry, Wilson, Hughes and Shields are better than Watson. In Watson’s 22 minutes against Wales he beat 10 defenders, the most by any Scotland player in the 6 nations and the sixth most since the six nations began.

      McInally and Maitland would surely start and Nel and Russell at the very least would be on the bench.

      1. Shields is a 6 and Hughes an 8 Watson is a 7. Curry would start before Watson every day of the week.

    2. That’s a real stretch. But even if it were true who cares? I don’t think there’s much in it in several positions. Player match-ups are basically a waste of time as they don’t factor in player familiarity, coaching etc

      We’re getting underestimated here on the back of an injury ravaged and luckless few weeks. But bar Hogg I don’t see any injury outs that really matter this weekend, including Jones. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong here but I predicted we’d lost badly in Wales last year and France this and I’m a much more balanced judge than most on here who seem to swing from wild optimist to despair based on the results of a few close-fought matches.

      1. I agree you seem to have an eye for a prediction BLB. Gkad your optimistic about tomorrow it gives me hope. We need to give ourselves a chance early on.

        The first 15 are alot closer to our first than we’d expect. The first 1 to 10 are arguably our first choice barring 6 and 8. 12 and Darcy are close to first too. We have many of our second choice or close to it on the bench. Yes we’re missing Barclay, Wilson, Ritchie, Seymour (he’d be in 23 at least) and Hogg. Jones on form is loss but he’s struggling. Horne and Dunbar too at present.

        I’m not saying it’s perfect but it could and has been alot worse during this championship.

        We’ve started strong in every match in this championship and we need to get on board early and avoid an English try in first few mins. I reckon we can afford one English try conceded in first 20.

        We get a 65 min performance with a bit more end product that’ll be enough.

    3. There’s debates to be had about the XV (you can see my thoughts above) but setting that aside saying no Scots in the 23 makes no sense given the bench position.

      Cowan-Dickie is not the 2nd best hooker of the 4 on show. Genge and Cole are not the 2nd best LH and TH prop. England are going without a lock replacement because Itoje and Lawes are missing. Why would a team choose to do that if they had Gilchrist, Toolis and Gray as options? Spencer is the 4th best of the scrum halves listed – he’s only in the England 23 because Care and Robson are injured and Jones already knows what Wigglesworth can bring. Ford is not as good as Russell. Why have the budget Tuilagi on the bench when you could have Maitland and use Daly to cover centre?

  11. God, Joe Marler has written an objectionable piece in the daily heil. Which again threatens physical revenge against Wilson. Our win last year has really got under their skin.

    I expect we’ll be well beaten, but if by some miracle we win these chumps are going to look like the @r$£holes they are. If you fancy yourself a hard man do your fighting talk in the tunnel, not in some English rag.

    1. More of the same rubbish. Interesting point about the accents:

      Dell South African
      McInally Scottish
      Nel South African
      Toolis Aussie
      Gilchrist Scottish
      Skinner English
      Watson Manchester Scot
      Bradbury Scottish
      Price English
      Russell Scottish
      McGuigan Namibian
      Johnson Aussie
      Grigg Kiwi
      Graham Scottish
      Maitland Kiwi

      Reid Scottish
      Brown Scottish
      Berghan Kiwi
      Gray Scottish
      Strauss South African
      Laidlaw Scottish
      Hastings Haven’t heard him speak
      Harris English

      I’ve never had a problem with project players or players with parents/grans but it’s a shame to see us so reliant on imports I think you want them to complement your home grown talent not the other way round. Though with our injuries I’m not sure what wed have left at the moment.

      1. It’s just a bit of a silly and crap argument to make. England’s previous captain was a kiwi with a broad kiwi accent. Hughes, Te’o kiwi accents, Vunipola welsh accents, Tuilagi Anglo-Samoan accent. Is he really respecting these guys in his own team?

      2. Most of these fellas solid members of the Scottish diaspora, as am I.
        Trust me, your Scottish identity can still be strong and my kids have got it too.
        If you want more homegrown players then build the player base.
        Scottish registered players has grown over the last decade but still half the size of the next smallest tier 1 nation (Wales)

  12. It’s interesting living in England and being a Scottish rugby supporter. The press down here are giving us no chance. It’s hard to believe we actually beat them last year in a superb display of thought ful flowing and skilful rugby. I get that we are the underdogs and have some key men missing. But anyone who as every played knows that just sometimes no matter who you are playing no matter how much better on paper the opposition are times something clicks on the pitch that means no matter what you will not let that team win. If I was preparing Scotland today I would let them read the daily mail and joe Marler. Let our team get a huge chip on their shoulder remind them we beat them last year. Let them go out there and no matter what do not let them win.

    1. I’m also an exile and Scotland wins are always more about the losing side in the coverage. That said we will get pumped today. The thing that strikes me about all the players crying after last season like Care and Marler is how would they survive the banter in an amateur club? Care is till crying about awilsn booing them at the rugby awards.

  13. It makes sad reading. The scots should just focus on the rugby. All this does is give me hope, the gap is closing by the hour. It truly has become a gentlmans game played by hooligans.

  14. Just had a slow and relaxing breakfast in my hotel down here in enlglandshire, having read most of the papers we are apparently here to make up the numbers, and I needn’t bother toddling along as it’s a foregone conclusion.

    Still it’s the hope that does for you , so come on scotland , get intae them!

  15. The sooner Townsend is out the better, he should never have been in charge, if he wants to build for the future then put him in charge of the under 20’s . It’s time for the SRU to get real .

    1. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
      He is in charge.
      I think he’ll gome good, you need to read that saying about spilt milk.

      1. Hey Johnny , I’ll leave you clean the milk up . I hope your enjoying the great Townsend era

  16. Ryan Wilson has been spotted with his father heading in the main door. Hope he causes havoc….

  17. Fxck it. Calling this. Best performance of the year. Scotland to win by 1. Darcy Graham, Finn Russell, Johnson Watson masterclass. It’s the hope…

    1. I hope so .. went for broke & put as many Scots as possible in the XV of superbru & no english.

  18. ….what a joke. Awful start.
    Not watching any more of this one. We look a shambles.

    Not even sure GT should be head coach for this WRC. Coaching support overhaul needed at very least.

  19. As I said after last week, our defensive structure needs a complete overhaul. Get some new coaches in.
    Yes, Grigg made the wrong decision for the first try, but there have been consistently huge gaps on 1st or 2nd phase ball all tournament.
    Johnson rushing up is very high risk as well.
    I don’t think you can just blame the players/injuries anymore.

    We don’t even look remotely interested in attack today either. Price taking tips from the Laidlaw school of rucks…..

    1. Said it a few games back…..defence is an absolute shambles. No structure at all. Coaching overhaul required immediately.
      We will be fortunate to beat Japan playing like we have done this 6N.

      Injuries or not…and we have a lot of 1st choice players playing today…we have regressed.

  20. This is the first Scotland game I’ve EVER turned off / left early for. Complete shambles. Players had nothing to lose coming into this, coaching setup has to take the blame for not instilling any belief or defensive structures.

  21. Jesus… have we like forgot that there are 15 players in a rugby team or something? The size of the holes in defence we must be at least two players down.

  22. They just have been exposed as a team defensively out wide.

    Lacking the clinical edge in attack once again also.

    This all looks like a coaching issues… Hard to blame players here so far.

    At least we have not had more injuries yet.

  23. I was a huge Toonie fan at the Warriors but this is pathetic. Why go for the Hail Mary off the lineout and cough the ball up?

    I think the coaching team need to be shown the door. The defence is a joke.

    The playbook is too ambitious.

    The selection is wrong.

    1. I thought that line out move was pretty good, small margin from taking it and a try. We have to try things like that and I won’t criticise them for it.

      1. It’s fine if you are good enough to execute it and it is used at the appropriate time. We are getting pummelled and needed to just go through some phases. Instead we cough it up off first phase and they go the length. Crazy tactically.

  24. Losing to the better team is fine….as long as we leave what we offer out there on the pitch.
    We have been awful this 6N. To hide behind injuries is just denial.
    We look like we have no clue what each other is doing at all. Coaching has to be responsible for that.
    GT has to be on a shoogly peg. His remaining coaching staff can leave today please.

    1. He isn’t the right coach for Scotland. Our players don’t have the skillset when under pressure from international rush defences.

      Also Toolis over Gray is nuts. He looks like he is going to get turned over on every carry and has been dross at the lineout. He isn’t international class. Neither is Nick Grigg.

      1. yeah…this time I against even be bothered debating the selection…it looked ok on paper.
        Its just that we came into this match having nothing to lose…and have managed to make a complete fool of ourselves. Sooo pissed off at the coaching staff….what a shambles.

  25. Wow, how did McInally have the legs for that?!

    Only positives so far 2 or 3 of our first choice players doing their best to make a difference.

    McInally, Watson, Russell trying hard. Johnson putting a huge amount of effort in, Bradbury as well.

    Not much, but at least it’s so ething

  26. Coaching is clearly to blame for this performance. The players are good enough, well mostly. Defence has been a joke since Taylor was employed back 4 years ago and defence wins titles. Townsend has to throw him to the wolves if he is to save his job I think.

    1. Yeah I wouldn’t be hiring an australian defense coach anyway….their own national team couldn’t defend against the local girl scouts. They can have him…and with ticket paid a years supply of lamingtons.

  27. At the cabbage patch as we speak. What a lonely place for a Scot to be.

  28. How is it that a professional rugby player who has a simple responsibility to kick to touch repeatedly misses touch. Without checking I could say with almost 100% certainty that no Tier 1 fly-half has missed touch as many times as Finn Russell. He truly is a gifted idiot.

    1. Don’t think you can blame him too much. He’s our third choice kicker if we have our full team. Injuries aren’t an excuse here as it truly is just men versus boys stuff. I’d only have 3 or 4 of the guys on show in my first team though.

  29. Players flying out of the line, standing off them do they can play, missing tackles, no work rate, no passion. England are playing well but Scotland are lying down for them.

    1. Russell just got an intercept try, wtf is going on!!!

      Equal on the scoreboard now 31-31

  30. Shoulder to the head and no yellow let alone red!! Ref has absolutely bottled that one!

  31. Another vicous shoulder charge off the ball by Farrell, if we dont get the rub of the green again ill be furious.

    Should be a Yellow card minimum

  32. Graham is pure class….should be a stick on at wing going forward. How that wasn’t a yellow for farrell is beyond me. clear cynical taken the man out.

    Ridiculous turnaround in the match. Haven’t changed my view at all though that we need new coaching support.

    1. I know but that’d be a big call to make if they got the conversation. Gutted right at the end. And seven points of missed kicks.

      1. I know, very cynical, but that was my gut feeling at the time, possibly a match winner. They had had three pens in a row, the one that was on advantage was right in front of the posts, you could feel they were going to score. Make them do it in the corner. Put Ford under pressure to sink the touchline conversion. Worst outcome a draw.

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