Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


6 Nations 2021: England v Scotland Match Preview pt II – head to heads

England vs Scotland
pic © Scottish Rugby Blog

The majority of the players who will be on show on Saturday weren’t involved in the bonkers 38-38 draw on the last occasion these sides met at Twickenham. Just 18 out of the 46 who played that night return 2 years on – 12 Englishmen and 6 Scots. On the Scottish side, Hamish Watson is the only member of the starting pack from 2019 who is back for more.

Tale of the tape

98   Tries  51
   Average weight   96kg
383   Total caps  246
6N caps  113
0 6N debuts 1
28.0   Average age   27.7

916kg   Pack weight  898kg
   Tries   19
235   Total caps  203
6N caps   79
0 6N debuts 1
27.0   Average age   26.2

219   Total caps   140
6N caps   64
2 6N debuts 2
  Tries   16
27.4   Average age   29.4

5 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Ireland)

  • 14 – Maitland for Graham [=]
  • 12 – Redpath for Taylor [=]
  • 10 – Russell for van der Walt [+]
  • 2 – Turner for Brown [-]
  • 7/6 – Watson for Thomson with Ritchie to 6 [+]

15 Elliot Daly
14 Anthony Watson
13 Henry Slade
12 Ollie Lawrence
11 Jonny May
10 Owen Farrell (c)
9 Ben Youngs

ADV Scotland
ADV England
ADV England
ADV England
ADV Scotland

15 Stuart Hogg (c)
14 Sean Maitland
13 Chris Harris
12 Cameron Redpath
11 D. van der Merwe
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price

1 Ellis Genge
2 Jamie George
3 Will Stuart
4 Maro Itoje
5 Jonny Hill
6 Mark Wilson
7 Tom Curry
8 Billy Vunipola

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

1 Rory Sutherland
2 George Turner
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Scott Cummings
5 Jonny Gray
6 Jamie Ritchie
7 Hamish Watson
8 Matt Fagerson

16 Luke Cowan-Dickie
17 Beno Obano
18 Harry Williams
19 Courtney Lawes
20 Ben Earl
21 Dan Robson
22 George Ford
23 Max Malins

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

16 David Cherry
17 Oli Kebble
18 Willem Nel
19 Richie Gray
20 Gary Graham
21 Scott Steele
22 Jaco van der Walt
23 Huw Jones


Backs – advantage England

Both sets of backs don’t lack for exciting strike runners. As ever though much will depend on the quality of ball provided by the forwards and the willingness of the respective sides’ half backs to unleash the weapons at their disposal. Advantage England in the former but to Scotland for the latter.

After a pretty drab Autumn Nations Cup here’s hoping it’s full Finnsanity from the off and this tournament reminds everyone what an amazing spectacle top class rugby can be.

Forwards – slight advantage England

Even with some high profile absentees this is a very strong English pack. Scotland are able to select their first choice 8 bar Fraser Brown or Stuart McInally at hooker. In a Lions year, Scottish forwards will rarely have a better chance to make a big statement to push their case for selection. It’s going to require an almighty effort though to show that they can live with the side that have set standards in the Northern Hemisphere for the last couple of years.

England’s weight advantage in the forwards doesn’t tell the full story. While the home side are significantly heavier in the back row it’s actually the Scots who have a slight edge in the tight 5.

Subs – advantage England

Scotland still have a few key positions where they are exploring their options. Gary Graham’s early season form makes him the pick of the Scots to make an impact when they join the fray.


–  In his last three appearances against England (for Scotland and the Barbarians) Finn Russell has been Player of the Match twice; scored 2 tries; and had the last pass (or kick) for another 5 scores.

– This is Ali Price’s 10th consectuive start at scrum half. That’s the longest such streak for a Scottish 9 since Greig Laidlaw played 18 in a row between February 2013 and June 2014.

– 11 of Scotland’s starting XV came through the Academy system.

– The Scottish backline is dominated by Exiles who account for 5 of the 7 starters. With Duhan van der Merwe moving South next season, Ali Price will be the only holdout from this group at the two pro teams.

– It’s just under 4 years since Richie Gray’s last start for Scotland. In the intervening period he has played just 27 minutes for the national side.

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

72 Responses

  1. I mentioned on the other post that discipline is imperative and that Turner and Richie will need to be on best behaviour, I think seeing the pack weights highlights this even more! Slade and Daly can both nudge the ball 50m with accuracy so any penalty around the half way gives them a chance at a 5m line out maul which will be very difficult to stop.
    I’d like to think we have slight advantage at scrum time and hoping that the Saracens players lack of game time becomes a factor.
    Nb is this not Ollie Lawrence’s first 6 nations?

    1. Jonny Hill has scored so many tries for Exeter from the 5m line out maul and so this is definitely an area of concern. He is an excellent carrier as well as being a big lump. Lets hope Tandy has been working on how to deal with this.

      1. I am surprised Eddie has never just picked as much of the Exeter pack as possible.


        That pack would weight 948kg and with Itoje in as Hill is the only capped Exeter lock only Ewers is uncapped though he’s been in the squad.

        As a unit they are so, so well drilled, I think they would score at will from 5m out. Not the prettiest on the eye mind.

      1. Apologies Kevin! I knew he was brought in for the first time in the autumn and forgot that it was for a 6 nations game.

        Saint – you’re completely right about Hill. I’m sure he’ll be keen to get one over his teammate and namesake who gets most of the plaudits as well.

  2. Amazing that the nation with more depth gets more caps into their players with similar ages…

    England backs are only half a season older but have 20 more caps each!

    On the bench they have 3 caps more each, despite being two years younger.

    Forwards admittedly more even, with 4 caps more but a whole season older.

    I guess they get “first dibs” on players more than we do, but still needs impressive consistency of selection.

    1. The bench is easier to explain, with 3 South African born players (Kebble, Nel and Jaco) and three other relative newcomers (Cherry, Graham and Steele).
      Obviously with our two senior hookers out that makes a big difference in relative experience.
      However, I take your point and indicates how Toony has struggled to find a 3/4 line that he likes. Depressing that with what I deem to be a rich pool of talent in the midfield Townsend hasn’t settled on who he wants in the centres. Obviously injuries have hampered this but over the last two seasons we have had
      Johnson-Jones (4 times)
      Johnson-Grigg (2)
      Johnson-Taylor (2)
      Johnson-Harris (6)
      That’s a lot of chopping and changing, whichever way you look at it. And another thing that occurs to me, for those that think Harris isn’t good enough, Redpath will be his 5th centre partner in the last ten games (and playing outside his 4th fly-half, although at least he’s played with Finn before).

      1. On the wings Jonny May and Maitland both debuted in 2013…

        England have been pretty steady – May, Watson, Nowell all steady presences since their debuts. 7 other first caps handed out to a few Pacifica experiments and one cap wonders.

        Scotland meanwhile…we’ve had an excellent Seymour come and go, Graham and van der Merwe come with some potential. The rest is pretty meh…Fife, Hoyland, Hughes, Steyn, McGuigan…a few of those have a good chunk of caps.

        Kinghorn I don’t count as he’s a fullback…but picked on the wing anyway, so no spot for our actual wingers.

        It can’t really be injuries as everyone has those roughly equally …early identification of the talent they want to foster and investment in that.

  3. I’ve always thought Finn played his best at international (and Glasgow) with Pete Horne outside him taking a 2nd 5/8th style role. Maybe it just gives him that split second longer to make decisions knowing he has someone who can play ball outside him. I haven’t watched Redpath in the premiership but from what I’m reading about him, maybe there’s a view he can fill that role. Anyone on here seen much of him in the premiership to confirm that or otherwise?

    Either way, Ali P needs to provide quick, clean service and for that he needs quick, clean ball from the set piece and the breakdown. If Zander and Rory are on top form we may have a shot at keeping parity in the tight.

    However, I think the key battle will be in the loose. Watson and Ritchie will have their work cut out at the breakdown against a huge back row and a lot will depend on how it’s reffed but if they can get parity and produce quick ball we may be in with a shout.

    1. Good post and yes I agree regarding Horne. Has Horne got too old or off form??? I’m not sure how you can really calculate that though as he has mainly played 10 when playing for Glasgow with Hasting out so how can you see what he is doing in his favoured position. He does so much unseen work and is probably a dream for the maverick players…the unsung hero…

    2. Totally agree, I got bored of saying it but Pete Horne was a very under appreciated player. He got a lot of hate for some memorable howlers at 10 (he’s not a 10) that I think took the shine off his great work at 12.

      Ali Price passing sharply is key, Finn can pass quickly very close to the line (as much as it makes me cringe some times), a rapid pass pass and the balls at 12 in the blink of an eye and in the hands of someone who might not just crash ball it.

    3. I think Horne has been our best centre since the turn of the millennium though he’s probably not the right man for the 12 shirt anymore.

      A good all rounder, rock solid in defence, good playmaker, decent kicking game but more than all that he was always the absolute glue in our backline that let others play to their strengths. Got too much unfair stick for a couple mistakes at 10 and as always with some of our players frequently tagged with the ‘good club player’ label despite all evidence to the contrary.

      For that brief period where was had Dunbar, Bennett and Horne at their peaks we were spoilt.

  4. The cap thing is pretty interesting given the comparable ages but a bit of digging shows how easy it can be for two players of comparable age to build a huge difference in caps, take Finn and Farrell.

    Things like 2016 – England go to Australia play a 3 game series with Farrell at 10, Scotland go to Japan with Jackson playing 10, Finn had wrecked his face against Connacht – 2018 England go to South Africa in a 3 game series when Scotland are resting senior players to go to the Americas.

    England going deeper in the World Cup, last years 6N with Finn missing games, that’s a big gap in caps and situations for two players to have played in.

    Throw in Watson, May, Youngs, Daly and Ford being involved in they tours for one reason or another England have a lot more big moments and games in their players.

    1. Ting: I don’t understand ? Are you saying England have a lot more continuity ! are they a more ‘settled’side than Scotland and why does the big moments and big games matter ?

      IMO : Tomorrow is about who is hungry enough to win : The venue gives less advantage than usual due to the circumstances . Do Scotland want it enough is my question ?

      ‘It is not about the past, it is about today’, according to Hogg , do you not agree with him? I do, it is there for the taking , so much in our favour, if not now, then when!

      I don’t think our guys are looking at the humongous gluttony of England caps going toe to toe with them, I doubt they will be bowing to them. They will be thinking about toppling them from the mountain of caps they stand on, in a feisty bruising challenge and earning their next cap for Scotland.

    2. You called it Toony Tunes. All that experience and caps were numb under a side that wanted it more. Good challenge as well, This was now or never ,

  5. Some of these head to head are very tight so irrelevant especially in the back line…however it does seem England have a better back line subs and Scotland better in the pack which is probably the most advantageous way round.

    An amazing turn around in personnel from 2 years ago although many injuries back then and retirements since. We have very few injuries this time round which is unlike us.

    One injury I think is a huge advantage is in fact Fraser Brown. Turner is better in every area other than throwing but most importantly discipline….Brown has consistently made huge brain farts in recent games with obstruction which released pressure…three I remember was Ireland in Nations Cup and Italy and Wales in Six Nations…

    Then you look at his record against England.

    2017 yellow early lost the game…
    2019 pen on halfway no need…lost us the win….no need at all.

    So we don’t have that crutch to deal with…Turner is another back row and both Turner and Sunderland are amazingly mobile front row players that bring huge advantage in the loose…

    Heard comment on how Ritchie has grown up…instead of moaning when he’s penalised for tight calls he accepts and adapts to what the ref wants…this is crucial. Watson is already there. Still hugely effective but be interested Kevin on how many pens he’s conceded for Scotland in 2020…I don’t remember one.

    1. Fagerson is getting there and has had enough starts not to feel over awed…give us a Bradbury from 2019 at Twickenham and will be enough to put us on the front foot…I’d argue both on experience and talent our pack is miles ahead of 2019…and clearly England have their gaps all over the pack….this really is a chance and a perfect storm….

      Get Hoggy firing and it’ll all come together

      1. I suspect the Fagerson brothers will have a big say in the outcome tomorrow as the numbers 3 and 8 seem inextricably linked to this game.

        The last time we won at Twickenham was ‘83
        That was 38 years ago
        The last game at Twickenham ended 38-38
        The Fagerson’s granny is 83 tomorrow!

        I predict the final score will be 8-3 with one of the Fagersons scoring the decisive try in the 83rd minute (the 83rd minute was when England scored the last try in the 38-38 draw last time).

        Ok – so I made up the bit about the Fagerson’s granny 😉

      2. I just phoned her and apparently you are spot on with that too!!!!

        Great Post had a chuckle!!!

  6. When was the last time our backline was heavier than England’s?
    Admittedly VDM will be a big chunk of that (and Russell being on the croissants in Paris), but it’s nice not to be physically way behind.
    Not that size is everything but it does help in most positions.

    I’m not massively confident going into this one, hopefully the Saracens players will be a bit rusty and we can start strong rather than playing catch up.

  7. A team not selected in that 23 available in the summer.

    Pierre Schoeman
    Fraser Brown
    Simon Berghan
    Grant Gilchrist
    Sam Skinner
    Blade Thomson
    Luke Crosbie
    Nick Haining
    George Horne
    Adam Hastings
    Darcy Graham
    Sam Johnson
    Duncan Taylor
    Byron Mcguigan (any other option?)
    Blair Kinghorn

    Stuart Mcinally
    Jamie Bhatti
    Murray Mcallum
    Ben Toolis
    Cornell Du Preez
    Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
    James Lang
    Kyle Steyn

    Depth will be weak in some areas still, but thats a pretty decent 2nd string team, sure others can make stronger ones of course, Mark Bennett and Matt Scott for example would make some teams.

  8. I think if certain things dont fall our way, England could win this at a canter. Having watched Exeter regularly since Hogg and Jonny moved there Hill is their standout player (and Ewers). It’s taken a while, and injuries for Jones to pick him but he is quality. I’d have Maitland over Watson any day though, Watson is a show pony, Maitland is quality. The battle will be won in the centres though. As Merlot has hinted at Townsend is yet to be convinced on a partnership and I think this weekend its more in hope than expectation. Any 2 from Bennet, Jones , Taylor and Johnston all of whom have form against England would have did for me but once more we go with an experiment. Let’s hope it pays off. Brown is a liability at hooker but he wouldn’t take any nonsense from the England forwards McInally would have been my first choice but hey, lets hope Turner steps up.

  9. Not sure I’d have Maitland as =Graham. Back 3 as a unit looks much better balanced with him and, again as a unit, I’d just put Scotland ahead. Maitland is still very under-rated and brings a lot to the table with his positional sense and reading of the game. Some of his timing with Saracens to score in very tight corners is exceptional but doesn’t have the wow factor that May has. I’d far rather have him than Daley whose best position is debatable although I guess like Halfpenny, his long range kicking is a big part of his selection.

  10. Not sure I agree with the ranking of the 5 changes to Scotland squad. I like Darcy Graham but Maitland is + in my book, both fairly prolific try scorers, but there are no questions over Maitland’s defence and he has bags more experience. Redpath for Taylor = is probably ok if he lives up to expectation but he is essentially an unknown entity, Taylor is one of our most experienced and best centres (if he isn’t broken) so I would have to say its a -. Turner for Brown is =, he has been going well and Fraser Brown hasn’t showered himself in glory recently.

    As for Ritchie, I think this is a huge game for him. Not just for his Lions prospects, his last couple of games for Scotland weren’t great, struggled with discipline and wasn’t effective. He needs to show what he’s made of and bounce back hard. Watson is playing for a Lions shirt.

    Will be interested to see what Gray senior can offer from the bench. He’s one of those players, burst onto the scene with some barnstorming games but then went quiet (not bad by any means just never fully lived up to the hype / potential IMO), all I remember are the same “why for someone as physically massive as him does he just flop on the ground when carrying” questions as for Jonny Gray.

    I can’t work out whether an empty Twickenham is a boost for us or if it won’t make any difference. Also can’t believe its two years since THAT game.

    1. I agree about R Gray, his biggest contribution to the team always seemed to be that he made J Gray play a bit better when he was alongside him.

  11. Pack really need need to work together to get at the English; don’t get isolated with resultant turnover ball. Need 2/3 at the breakdown quickly to clear out any potential jackalling and protect the ball so it can be quickly recycled. Would prefer G Graham started with M Fagerson on the bench for added grunt but maybe Fagerson can show he can really compete with the English back row. Good luck to Cam Redpath on his debut – hopefully he’ll have a great game but let’s not jump on his back if it doesn’t go his way after one game.

  12. How about this for a fact.

    Scotland v England is the oldest Rugby union Intentional
    It was Scotland that issued the challenge.
    Add that to the list, we invented International Rugby.
    150 years ago , we played the first game against England and won.
    On the centenary , 100 years later (1971) we played them twice a week apart, home and away , Scotland won both.
    Tomorrow is the 150th Year of this fixture.
    No pressure lads.

  13. Looks like the weather is going to turn wet during match time. Not sure who this will favour to be honest. Russell’s kicking game has got much more variety to it than Farrell’s and he can put some nasty grabbers through to test the handling of their back three. Our jacklers really need to do a job on the ground. England’s biggest loss is actually Underhill. Our back row need to be on it and be as aggressive and dominant as they can whilst keeping on the right side of the referee. Big game needed from the pack generally, including the replacements. There is no reason for them to fear this English pack, but too often we end up too tentative in these type of games. Every chance of an upset though, every chance.

    1. Agree with that. Get stuck in the way they did v Ireland 1st up last year and they’re good enough.

  14. Has Russell, been kicking any penalties for Racing? We will need to keep the points ticking over so I hope he’s got his eye in

  15. Enjoyed the Russell interview, he does seem more considered and reflective . Whoever said it was a def give away that Redpath was gonna start. Can get behind this selection and hope to see the bench! Come on!

  16. Biggest thing for me on the head to heads that isn’t included above is Townsend v Jones.

    Townsend, for me, just never quite manages to get the team firing from the first whistle of the first match. I also worry that Jones just seems to be able to work out our tactics and negate them too easily and we then leave it too late (or to a player revolt?) to mix it up.

    1. Interestingly Gregor stated this week that he had possibly fired the team up too much before the last visit at Twickenham in which the emotion got the better of the team. He has since learnt that the players perform better if they approach the game in a much more relaxed fashion. Id still prefer to see them fited up a lot more. Though having heard Hoggs thoughts this week
      we should see that from the off. COME ON SCOTLAND!

  17. Has something changed this year on the deliberate knock on rule?

    France v Italy has the same ref as our last game v Ireland. That game turned on the decision to yellow card Taylor for what was ruled a deliberate knock on.

    Within the first ten minutes of this one, the ref awarded.a scrum for a knock on in a markedly similar incident against A French defender. He then quickly changed it to a penalty as he was advised by the TMO that it was deliberate. Why did the yellow card not come out? Where’s the consistency?

    In a way I’m glad that no card was shown because it is a stupid application of the law. However it does seem that the bigger teams are treated with a different set of rules than teams like Scotland or Italy.

    1. It’s called institutional racism slowWalk… and yes, us Scots have been dealing with it since the game turned pro.

    2. its same old story ..why did Russell
      give the officials a chance by carrying out a clear deliberate foul?

  18. We all know that rugby is a difficult game to referee, but inconsistency from refs is a plague on the sport. At its worst it looks like favouritism and at the least it just confuses the casual spectator, doing nothing but souring the public image and development of rugby.

  19. I’d give man of the match to George Turner. His darts were flawless scotland 15\15 lineouts and even stole two of Englands. Perfect display.

    1. Man of the match should have been a forward but they were all brilliant. However how would you chose one over the other. Now , Steele, I want to see more of him. This guy is already starting XV material in my eyes.


    What ‘white wave’???

    – Hogg captain & MotM
    – Watson turning it over & kicking it out
    – Cherry & Redpath lifting the cup
    – 63% of ball possession/retention


    1. 😂

      Apparently my comment was too short when it was just an emoji. I hadn’t realised how young Redpath looks, he looked like he should still be playing school 1st XV but what a debut performance!

    2. When have i ever called Redpath a Judas? I have been selecting him for many of my match-day teams. Enjoy the win instead of making comments about me lol.

  21. Tactical analysis can wait till my head clears, but for now I’ll just say this: that’s the best performance I’ve ever seen from Scotland, save perhaps for the 33-6 Calcutta Cup match in ’86.

  22. Great stuff. Thought Gray and Matt Fagerson were particularly powerful, but everyone was sharp and on form. A great win, and that scoreline flatters England.

    1. I agree about the score line. I was getting more and more worried about our inability to convert pressure to points and our track record of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…

  23. Just to apologise to Matt Fagerson. Always thought you were too light weight but team cohesion and game plan I.e. sum of the parts. Fantastic performance. Extremely impressed. Only got 10 years or so…

    1. Probably, “only happened because of lack of any crowd so I can’t risk taking Scottish players as they’re bound to choke on the atmosphere. I’d better stick to Welsh players who were excellent for me 6 years ago.”

      1. I’d have loved them to have grabbed Gatland for an interview after the game. That would have been brilliant. As much as Owen Farrell looked like a deer in headlights in his interview, Gatland would probably have been in a worse state.

  24. Put this in context we left 3 gimme kicks at goal out there and ended a period with a man binned 3 points in credit.
    Against England.
    The White Orcs on Steroids.

    We also should’ve won our last game at Twickenham which we drew in the final minute so in some ways this is better than 1983 – not a one off.

    Being a Scotland fan isn’t always easy but I’ll take that.

    1. We’ll go into our next game at Twickenham having not lost to them there for 6 years. No reason not to think that we can extend that as well.

  25. What was the last team to only concede 6 points against England at Twickenham?

    Our defense has become legendary under Steve Tandy. Our pack is significantly underrated, not least from this aspect of the game.

    1. In the second half our defense was so strong we were pushing them back when they were attacking. They ended up putting in a hurried kick to surrender. It went dead , drop out to Scotland and we just charged in and softened their ribs again.

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