Scotland v England, Six Nations 2022: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

There are just three changes to the Scotland XV that beat England at Twickenham last year (Darcy Graham for Sean Maitland; Sam Johnson for Cameron Redpath; and Grant Gilchrist for Scott Cummings). Conversely, Eddie Jones’ includes just six returning starters from the side that was second best twelve months ago.

Elliot Daly (in three different positions!), Maro Itoje and Tom Curry will be the only Englishmen to start the last three Calcutta Cup encounters. The Scots have seven players in Saturday’s XV who were also there in 2021 and 2020 (Stuart Hogg, Ali Price, Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson).

On the occasion of Gregor Townsend’s 50th match in charge of Scotland, will the superior consistency and cohesion that the dark blues have been building provide enough of an edge to win the day?

Tale of the tape

Tries   50
   Average weight   87kg
Total caps   234
6N caps   88
6N debutants   2
5 B&I Lions 3
Average age   26.5

   Pack weight   906kg
Tries   23
Total caps   218
6N caps   95
6N debutants   1
3 B&I Lions 5
Average age   26.6

Tries   36
148   Total caps   293
6N caps   134
6N debutants   2
0 B&I Lions 3
Average age   27.7


3 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Japan)

  • 1 – Sutherland for Schoeman [=]
  • 4 – Gray for Cummings [+]
  • 8 – M. Fagerson for Bayliss [+]


Stuart Hogg (c)
Darcy Graham
Chris Harris
Sam Johnson
D van der Merwe
Finn Russell
Ali Price

Rory Sutherland
George Turner
Zander Fagerson
Jonny Gray
Grant Gilchrist
Jamie Ritchie
Hamish Watson
Matt Fagerson

Stuart McInally
Pierre Schoeman
WP Nel
Sam Skinner
Magnus Bradbury
Ben White
Blair Kinghorn
Sione Tuipulotu

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

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

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

Freddie Steward
Max Malins
Elliot Daly
Henry Slade
Joe Marchant
Marcus Smith
Ben Youngs

Ellis Genge
L Cowan-Dickie
Kyle Sinckler
Maro Itoje
Nick Isiekwe
Lewis Ludlam
Tom Curry (c)
Sam Simmonds

Jamie George
Joe Marler
Will Stuart
Charlie Ewels
Alex Dombrandt
Harry Randall
George Ford
Jack Nowell


Backs – advantage Scotland

Ali Price and Finn Russell will make their 20th start together for Scotland (of Russell’s 37 other appearances in the 10 shirt for the national side, 36 were alongside Greig Laidlaw and he had a single outing with Henry Pyrgos). The bromance also has plenty of history at club level too of course. Meanwhile, this will be just the third time in harness for the Ben Youngs / Marcus Smith partnership.

With heavy rain and strong winds forecast, neither set of half backs may be able to play the kind of open game they would like. The race will be on from kickoff to see which pairing can adapt the quickest and most effectively to what the conditions throw at them.

Forwards – advantage England

While it is Scotland’s Lions-heavy backline that has often taken the plaudits, their wins over England have been heavily influenced by taking the physical battle up front to their opponents. For too many years, Scottish packs were pretty passive and unable to live with the intensity of their more celebrated opponents.

There’s no reason to believe this English pack will be any less aggressive or relentless than those that have gone before. What the Scots have to show again, is that they are able to live with that ferocity and even win some of the key battles. Fronting up in the forwards in games like this is also crucial for developing the kind of mindset that can challenge South Africa and Ireland during the RWC pool stages in a little over 19 months’ time.

Subs – advantage England

There are some gnarled veterans to come off the bench and shore up the scrum late on. Between them, WP Nel and Joe Marler have played more than 600 top level games for their clubs and countries. In fact all six front row replacements are heavyweight presences and, given the expected conditions, the setpiece battle late on could prove crucial.


– The 7 Test-capped Lions in Scotland’s starting XV are the most for the national side in any game during the professional era.

– The Scottish backline for this fixture has started 4 out of the last 6 Tests (South Africa – same lineup bar Rufus McLean for Darcy Graham and Matt Scott for Sam Johnson; Tonga – the 4 Exiles were not available).

– 20 of the Scottish 23 have previous experience of lifting the Calcutta Cup. Remarkably that’s more than the 11 Englishman on the opposing side who have done the same. Changed days indeed from just before kick off at Murrayfield on 2018 when not one of the Scots on show had ever won the famous old trophy while 22 out of 23 of their opponents were past Calcutta Cup victors.

– Nearly two thirds of the way through the 2023 World Cup cycle, England have just 3 players aged 30 or older in their lineup (1 starter and 2 subs). Scotland have 5 in the 30+ bracket (3 starters and 2 subs).

– Excluding fixtures against Italy, England have only won 2 of their last 9 away games in the Six Nations. Prior to that, they had won 8 out of their previous 11 such matches between 2012 and 2017.

– Maro Itoje has a winning record versus 10 of the 13 nations he has faced at Test level. There are just 3 sides against who he has a 50:50 or worse record – South Africa (44% win percentage); New Zealand (50%) and Scotland (50%).


When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

33 comments on “Scotland v England, Six Nations 2022: Match Preview pt II – head to heads

  1. DesT on

    Not convinced that Curry is better than the Mish, he’s a liability that gives out penalties, nor that Zander is worse than Sinckler. Beyond that, it’s a fair reflection of where we are. Looking forward to the game :)

    • Kevin Millar on

      Putting the number 7 contest as Advantage England really stung (see my articles and tweets during the Lions tour for evidence of my opinion on Watson v Curry!) but based on current form I had to go with Curry. Which is not to say Watson doesn’t have the capability to come out and totally dominate that battle – just that it will be a big step up from anything he’s produced so far this season.

      I prefer to think of it as ‘good, but not quite as good’ rather than ‘worse’! Not a huge amount in it but Sinckler grabbed his opportunity and overtook Zander on the Lions’ tour despite only being a late call-up. I also thought Sinckler coped a bit better with the South African scrum in the Autumn.

    • Referendum on

      Curry’s ability to be a penalty machine and Itoge for that matter far out weighs their good contribution to the team.

      Bearing in mind you want under 10 pens in a test match, they on a bad day give 2 away each at least. You can’t really afford any one individual to give more than one away.

      So if they have their expected game against Scotland these two individuals will put England under it…

  2. Angerine on

    Dose of realism from the Kevmeister here. England are still favourites, and have the better individuals. Has this team built a strong enough bond to overcome that?

  3. Scotty on

    Some interesting stats and, as ever, the head to heads are up for debate!
    I do feel our pack has enough to go toe to toe with them tomorrow but the playmaking abilities in their back line are quite concerning. Our defence will have to be spot on but I do believe Harris is the best equipped to lead the defensive line.
    As ever with big test matches, it’ll come down to the breakdown, discipline and the odd bounce of the ball.
    The bookies have us at pretty well even, let’s hope the home advantage sees us over the line!

  4. Not science on

    Quite looking forward to the Scottish 💣 squad making an appearance – maybe as entire unit: Schoeman, McInally, Nel. Skinner and Bradbury fairly add something to the mix. As does Sione. Quite exciting really…

  5. Big Al on

    Cant help but think the weather will play a massive part in this game so it will likely come down to who makes the least errors rather than who has the best attack.

    I expect our back 3 to get tested with a few early bombs. If those are diffused then game on, if not its going to be a long evening.

  6. Spindrift on

    Hope Price is ready for his “head to head” with Itoje.
    Can’t help thinking the bags under his eyes will be big enough to tackle thinking about that one.

  7. BryzzoWan78 on

    Didn’t Matt Scott also start at 12 against South Africa?

    I think the H2H’s are pretty spot on – not sure about Sutherlandover Genge on recent form, but I’d also reverse Zander over Sinckler for the same reason.

    I still can’t help but look at their backs subs (Ford and Nowell in particular) and then look at ours and sight a little bit. I’m not sure we’ve got the best backs subs we could have picked.

  8. alythman on

    anyone watched the under 20’s tonight – Scotland superior in the forwards but total mismatch in the backs where we were totally overrun

    • Neil on

      I thought we did really well for 60 minutes or so. That English full-back was just physically to powerful and sharp however, way above the rest of the English backline.

      The English seemed in shock for most of the game at our intensity, i wonder how much the super-6 has contributed to this.

      Scoreline did not reflect the performance, England just had some very good individuals.

      • Johnny b on

        Yeah we hit them pretty hard and looked on for the win for quite a while but going down to 13 for 10 minutes exposed us.

  9. Referendum on

    Just saw George Ford on the bench. This is a concern…he loves to spoil our party. However not today….I think we’ll prevail…we’ll camp them in with great kicking.

    • Neil on

      There is less hope and more so expectation these days.

      This is a good but untested, unfamiliar England team. No excuses.

  10. Fraser on

    Scotland with no ball in the first half but look very sharp on the 3 occasions they have had a run while England are trying to bash through with little success. Perhaps lucky to be ahead – need to string some phases together and get at least parity in possession in the second half or I think England will eventually break us down.

  11. Neil on

    Scotland playing ok, just feel we are slightly too composed and relaxed, would like to see a bit more intensity around breakdown.

  12. Neil on

    Performance not good enough in areas?

    Enough to beat Wales? Probably, France and Ireland? No chance.

    Need more forward dominance i think.

    Team for Wales:

    Stuart Hogg – Darcy Graham – Chris Harris – Sione Tuipolotu – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Finn Russell – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Hamish Watson – Magnus Bradbury – Sam Skinner – Grant Gilchrist – Zander Fagerson – George Turner – Rory Sutherland

    Sam Johnson – Blair Kinghorn – Ben White – Rory Darge – Jonny Gray – Willem Nel – Stuart McInally – Pierre Schoeman

    • Fraser on

      Don’t think I would change anybody unless injured. Johnson is one of our key players for me.
      Assuming Ritchie is out, Bradbury starts and Darge on the bench.

    • FF on

      I think there will be a big response from Wales at the Millennium. I would not assume they will be as bad as today and frankly, we have a habit of sh!tt!ng the bed against them. We need to be much more disciplined than today, that rope a dope trick is much harder to pull off away from home.

      • TENC on

        Winning in Cardiff is all about managing the crowd. Give them nothing in the first 30 minutes and the crowd sensing a long day will work against them not us. Get a nose in front before half time , even better. For whatever reason, we are intimidated by the Welsh gamesmanship and it irks us into mistakes. The battle this week, is off the pitch and in the mind.

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