Teams news, quotes and TV details ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham
Six Nations England v Scotland Preview
Scotland went 38 years without winning at Twickenham but they head there for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations opener with a glint in their eye. Having lost only one of the previous five meetings, the fear factor has well and truly vanished for the Scots, even if their recent form has been patchy.
England are starting anew after patience with Eddie Jones’s ‘jam tomorrow’ promises wore thin. Steve Borthwick, who featured in 25 championship matches for England, captaining them ten times, is taking charge of his first Six Nations campaign. To say he has little time to weld together a cohesive team for next autumn’s World Cup is putting it mildly, but who’s to say he can’t start with a bang?
Mike Ruddock (2005), Warren Gatland (2008), Declan Kidney (2009) and Jones (2016) all won a Six Nations Grand Slam in their first year as head coach. Now Borthwick, with the comfort of three home fixtures, will attempt the same.
Expectations are high, perhaps unreasonably so. Borthwick and his right-hand man, defence coach Kevin Sinfield, achieved a great deal in a short time at Leicester Tigers. Of course, they don’t get the same exposure to players at international level.
Sean Holley, the former Ospreys coach and much respected analyst, says: “The introduction of Sinfield could be a masterstroke by Borthwick, although it’s not without a gamble. His coaching career in union has been short and the Six Nations tournament as a baptism in international terms is sure to be a ruthless one.
“I get the impression that it’s not just about the technical and tactical coaching, however. England have got themselves someone who the players will respect hugely and play for. The man-management, big-game experience and cultural development that Kevin Sinfield can bring England is something few can bring to the table.”
Can Borthwick and Sinfield make an instant impact or will Gregor Townsend’s Scotland maintain their current grip on the fixture? It’s going to be fascinating finding out.
What’s the big team news?
Ollie Hassell-Collins has grabbed the headlines as the London Irish wing will make his England debut in Saturday’s fixture. The 24-year-old is lying third in this season’s Premiership try-scoring chart with eight.
Related: Inside the Mind of Ollie Hassell-Collins
Joe Marchant starts at outside-centre, a position in which Borthwick’s options were reduced after injuries to Henry Slade, Elliot Daly and Dan Kelly. The powerful Manu Tuilagi is omitted from the match-day squad altogether.
With Tom Curry (hamstring) unavailable, his twin brother Ben Curry will earn a second England cap 17 months after his first, against USA in July 2021.
Related: The Making of Ben and Tom Curry
Jack van Poortvliet gets the nod over Ben Youngs at scrum-half and Marcus Smith continues at fly-half, with skipper Owen Farrell at 12.
Wing Max Malins – one of seven Saracens men in the 23 – returns to the back three.
In the front row, hooker Jamie George has completed the ‘return to play’ protocol after concussion and starts. Regular choice Luke Cowan-Dickie, of Exeter Chiefs, is injured.
Ollie Chessum partners Maro Itoje at lock and Curry is joined by Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt in the back row. Ben Earl, sensational this season but largely ignored by Jones, will be unleashed from the bench.
Harlequins hooker Jack Walker is set for his debut, veteran prop Dan Cole is poised for his 96th cap and Anthony Watson, another Leicester Tiger, is back in the fold following injury.
For Scotland, Edinburgh back-row Luke Crosbie is rewarded for his excellent form this season – particularly in the Champions Cup – by winning his third cap. The experienced Hamish Watson only made his comeback from concussion last weekend after picking up a knock against New Zealand in November.
Chris Harris, the defensive linchpin, surprisingly starts on the bench as Townsend opts for the all-Glasgow centre partnership of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones. Harris, a Lion in 2021, has been impeccable for Gloucester this season but Jones’s inclusion may pose more of an attacking threat at Twickenham.
Ben White, fresh from a typically lively performance for London Irish against Harlequins last weekend, is preferred to Ali Price, another Lion two years ago. Price doesn’t even make the match-day 23 as George Horne gets the reserve scrum-half berth.
Stuart Hogg, sidelined for Exeter since Christmas because of a heel injury, returns at full-back in a back three featuring Kyle Steyn – first-choice wing Darcy Graham is rehabbing an MCL injury suffered in early December.
In the tight five, yet another Lion, Zander Fagerson, misses out. The tighthead is lacking match fitness following a hamstring injury, so the South African-born duo, WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman, partner George Turner in the front row. It’s Schoeman’s 17th consecutive Test since his debut in 2021.
Richie Gray, so impressive in the autumn, links up with vice-captain Grant Gilchrist in the engine room, with brother Jonny on the bench.
What have the coaches said?
England head coach Steve Borthwick said: “There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld Enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup.
“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world.
“This England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation. To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “It was a difficult selection. There are so many players in really good form – and we back form now, which means there are experienced players who have played a lot of rugby for us who have missed out.
“But we believe this is the strongest squad we can pick for this weekend. The players who have missed out on selection have shown real professionalism.
“Luke is a form selection. It’s a tricky one because you look at how well Andy Christie, Josh Bayliss and Jack Dempsey have been playing, but Luke has really stepped up. If you look at the games against Saracens in particular, he brought physicality on both sides of the ball.
“Hamish is such a quality player, one of our leaders. But given he had been out for over two months, we felt one game wasn’t enough to get him up to Test level. Cohesion is important, especially when you only have four training sessions to prepare the team.
“Huw has been in brilliant form. Physically he is looking in his best shape but also the way he has attacked running lines and the way he has defended.”
“Zander was very close. That was really a decision with the medics. He’ll be available next week, we’re pretty confident of that. We just felt another week’s training was best for him.”
- Selection permitting, Stuart Hogg will win his 100th Scotland cap in the round four match against Ireland at Murrayfield
- Hogg made the most metres (656) in last year’s Six Nations. His all-time figure of 3,753 is the most in history and only Brian O’Driscoll eclipses Hogg’s 155 defenders beaten
- Scotland and England had the best goalkicking percentage last year, with 82.4% and 81.5% respectively. Finn Russell (87%) was the most accurate kicker
- Scotland beat the most defenders (128) in last year’s championship, while England (71) beat the fewest
- Marcus Smith was the top point-scorer, with 71 – a whopping 70% of England’s total
- Grant Gilchrist hit 95 of his own team’s rucks last year – the most by any Scotsman
- Only Ireland had a quicker average ruck speed than Scotland’s 3.55 seconds
- England managed only eight tries in the 2022 championship – only Italy scored fewer
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
England v Scotland, Saturday 4 February, Twickenham
This match will be shown on ITV, with kick-off in London at 4.45pm. You can also listen to the match live on BBC 5 Live.
There is an all-New Zealand team of officials for this one, with Paul Williams taking the whistle. Ben O’Keeffe and James Doleman are his assistants, Brendon Pickerill is the TMO.
What are the line-ups?
England Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Owen Farrell (capt), Ollie Hassell-Collins; Marcus Smith, Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Ollie Chessum, Lewis Ludlam, Ben Curry, Alex Dombrandt.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Anthony Watson.
Scotland Stuart Hogg; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, WP Nel, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Luke Crosbie, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 George Horne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Chris Harris.
The latest issue of Rugby World magazine – a Six Nations special – is in shops now.