Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v England: The Teams

Scotland v England
pic © Scottish Rugby Blog

Venue: BT Murrayfield
Kickoff: 4.45pm
Live on BBC Sport

Scotland will face an England side who stuttered badly against France but who are travelling north in strength, despite the absence of Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson. With a rookie at 15 and still some doubt over the best 8/9 combo as Ben Youngs is benched (one of just 2 backs there), there are perhaps chinks in the armour of a side who were World Cup finalists and who comprehensively dismantled the All Blacks at the same tournament.

Scotland have had an extra day to recover from their disappointing but better than expected loss to Ireland and will relish a return to a packed BT Murrayfield after 5 games on the road including that horror show of a World Cup.

Gregor Townsend has only made one change to the starting 23, bringing back Magnus Bradbury and moving Nick Haining to the bench which means Cornell du Preez drops out.

The unchanged back division will need to find better ways to finish their chances if the pack can get them some sort of platform. You doubt England will be as generous to us as they were against France.

History is in the past and a lot has changed since the 2018 win, not to mention it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of last year’s craziness. It does however represent a very rare chance for Scotland to win the Calcutta Cup for the third year, something not done for almost 50 years.

Another committed performance, please.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt), Sean Maitland, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Nick Haining, George Horne, Rory Hutchinson, Chris Harris

England: George Furbank, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell (capt), Elliot Daly, George Ford, Willi Heinz; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Lewis Ludlam, Sam Underhill, Tom Curry.
Replacements: Tom Dunn, Ellis Genge, Will Stuart, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs, Ollie Devoto.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)

Part II of Kevin’s Calcutta Cup preview will follow shortly.

28 Responses

  1. Interesting changes (or lack of) by EJ for England team this weekend. Curry still at #8, retained Furbank at FB, Joseph stays at OC and Farrell at IC. Kruis starts at 2R and Ludlam in at #6, replacing Lawes who drops to bench. Six forwards as subs so expecting to be run around a lot and bring on big replacements in 2H. Switched Heinz as started SC with Youngs, expecting a faster tempo at the start of the match with quicker distribution. England expecting us to play high tempo by the look of things. We need to start the same way we did against Ireland but capitalise on opportunities. We cant let them dominate set piece or the rucks. They have a better back row now than in 2018 with better scavengers. Ours just have to be more aggressive, not get isolated and be quick to clear out (legitimately Zander) the tackler/jackeler).

    1. When you say “lack of” he has changed a third of the team! And the fact he has 6 forwards on the bench means the exact opposite of a fast game. With 45mph winds he is expecting a slugfest, hence having two second rows on the bench. They will look to suffocate us and use the wind, when they can, to kick the corners and apply pressure. The forecast suits them and this game plan unfortunately but hopefully we can pounce on any weak kicks and take our chances better than last week. Our forwards need to match the intensity of last week and look after the ball a lot better

      1. Some of the changes are switches from bench to starting team, not an introduction of new personnel. I appreciate that Earl is new, as is Dunn but a lot of the changes are moving the deck chairs.
        It is critical that our lineout functions this week. We lost too many vs Ireland, (as Glasgow did against EDI over Xmas). ENG will look to dominate our lineout and make hay on their own ones.

      2. Change of the starting line up are changing Jimmy…and there are names there in the 23 I’ve never heard of…this squad is significantly different and their are at least five I can count who are having their first Calcutta Cup outing and they are both missing experienced players through choice and injury that know international rugby and this fixture. We have many who know the fixture have won it and have survived Twickenham too.

        All this doesn’t guarantee a win and could work either way but I think I’d rather this that many other scenarios

  2. I predict Magnus Bradbury’s greatest game as a professional player this Saturday no doubt about it

  3. Hard to disagree with that. Good he’s stuck with the same team, Johnson and Jones when playing well are our best centres (although Matt Scott is entitled to dispute that based on his current form) and giving them time together is sensible. Jones seems to have at least slightly rediscovered some of his form and has a wonderful habit of scoring against England!

    Haining had a good first game and deserves to stay in the team but a backrow of Ritchie, Watson and Bradbury is on paper at least, an excellent one and would be my first choice.

  4. Good to see that largely the same team has been trusted to go again. I’m not entirely convinced that Ritchie, Watson and Bradbury is the correct back row blend as that’s a combination rarely seen at Edinburgh. However, if Tom Curry is playing 8 then maybe Bradbury at 8 is a good choice and speed to the breakdown will be paramount. Would also be good to see what impact Haining can make coming on for the last quarter. He seemed to lose a bit of steam in the 2nd half last week. Otherwise I might have been tempted to put an out and out winger on the bench as the English pair are pretty quick.

  5. The weather could be the most interesting variable this weekend. England will want to keep it tight but our tight five aren’t bad. Could come down to who has the stickiest fingers and makes the least mistakes. Kicking could be a complete lottery.

  6. I honestly think Scotland can beat that England team if we play anything like our potential take our chances and make no serious mistakes glad he given the boys another run out continuity makes a lot of sense.

  7. Can Ryan Wilson be the water boy this weekend or will he be put in charge of tunnel security ;-)

  8. Would have liked to see Horne over Price and Hutch over Jones this week – both need much improved performances to justify selection again. As does Kinghorn although there’s not really a better option until Graham is fit.

    Still, there’s a lot to be said for consistency and on paper this is a game we can win.

    1. Horne completely messed up the final goal line stand whereas Price I thought was excellent and very abrasive in defence which is like having an extra man compared to Laidlaw and partly explains why we competed better than at RWC.

      1. Agreed. I think that Horne is excellent but he didn’t play well when he came on against Ire whereas Price barely put a foot wrong.

      2. That’s a bit unfair on laidlaw. The forwards were absent at the RWC and were excellent last week. A handful of errors and one or two 50-50 calls meant we only came away with a LBP.

      3. I thought Price was average – maybe I am biased though and just hate the way he waves his arms round and moans rather than getting on with it. Too much like Murray and other chippy 9s for me.

        Anyway, hope the subs (particularly Horne and Hutch) get a decent run out this week.

      4. Look at our botched try and you will see Price set it up with fast recycling and a half dart that moved the Irish defence.

  9. It would have been difficult to drop anyone from the Ireland match…as there was alot of promise shown. Bradbury would have played had he been fit….Haining a good replacement.
    Conditions will have a say how this goes….combined with how much our defense is improving and learning that we need to bring the same aggression every match….and if can stay calm when getting near the try line. The breakdown will be a tough affair no doubt….
    We just need to be better than we were against Ireland….if we are…we’ll be there or thereabouts.

  10. Agree with RuggersB, the only thing I’ve got is Harris on the bench, GT will say he covers wing………but does he REALLY???? McGuigan or Steyn better bets (if flexibility is important) IMO. The weather turns around KO time, I’d like Hoggy to “test” Furbank with a couple of early Garryowens

  11. Scotland should look to target the England 15 with high balls. He looked very suspect vs France and is worth trying to pressure.

    First and foremost though, the pack has to front up and not give an inch and the backs need to be clinical. Vastly reduce the silly self inflicted errors and we have a good chance of winning this. Come on Scotland!

  12. First time in a long time where it feels like the team is starting to pick itself.

    C’mon Scotland, a bit of last week with 2018 CC thrown in!

    1. It’s a peculiar feeling, being the team with a settled and mature feeling side.

      England are the ones doing a lot of chat. They seem nervous and emotional, even a bit rattled.

      Time for another slow walk maybe? 30 years on…

  13. I am not a fan of Gregor Townsend, not yet, probably not ever, but minimising the changes is a step in the right direction in my opinion. Whether it is too little too late remains to be seen. We are, 3 years later, right back following the Cotter blueprint of developing a side. A simple plan ,pick a team, play it regularly, see what they can do, make small changes. I genuinely hope it works out, most would have capitulated sooner, the man has tenacity. It might be boring, but setting out a mirage and hoping that every combination feasible can pull it off, was just a schoolboy dream.

    I do not think a win on Saturday is beyond us, we are not afraid of England at Murrayfield and we will do everything but bare our buttocks to show disrespect to the RWC finalists. But if England show up for an arm wrestle, we are in for a night of truly ‘Honking rugby.’

      1. To be fair there were soooo many injuries in the year leading up to the RWC. Even my English friends had sympathy for us. We had virtually a whole starting XV out during last year’s 6N. On this forum nobody could agree on our best squad. Neil couldn’t even agree with himself!
        That being said I am over the moon Toonie has stuck with last week’s picks. Bradbury would have started if not for injury IMO.
        Can see it being a difficult day against the Auld Enemy though. Cannot afford a sloppy start. If we don’t let them score in the first 20, and are still within a score in the last 10, I’ll be happy.

      2. Can we blame Toonie for all of that?

        I think we were at a really awkward period in 2019.

        It was almost impossible to pick a settled side given the following

        – injury list in 2019 (and prior)
        – Players fading at the wrong time
        – players who were once shoe-ins hitting bad form

        I think Townsend wanted experience and continuity but these players let him down so he had to change to form and youth midway through the comp.

        It was the perfect storm for selection headaches in my opinion.

        Sutherland – injuries
        McInally – bad form
        Nel – fading
        R. Gray – injuries / bad form
        Gilchrist – bad form
        Skinner – injured
        Barclay – fading/bad form
        Wilson – ditto
        Watson – injured
        Thomson – fit for first time
        Laidlaw – fading

        Dunbar – mostly injured
        Bennett- ditto
        Taylor – mostly injured / bad form
        Huw Jones – bad form / no game-time
        Johnson – bad form
        Seymour – fading / bad form
        Hogg – bad form

        This ruined our preparation.

        It forced us to turn to youth too soon and forced us to ditch combinations. Centre especially was a joke…you will never see an injury crisis hit a side’s midfield options ever again.

  14. Weather will be interesting. Could be an all wet affair or could hold off till later in the the match but once it hits it hits. Hoping we are ahead rather than behind by the time the weather hits….although that is not something the Scots are used too more recently in bi matches.

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