Teams news, quotes and TV details ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield
Six Nations England v Scotland Preview
What’s the gripping, gut-twisting drama of a Calcutta Cup match without a little pantomime beforehand? Already we have had England coach Eddie Jones proclaiming Scotland are “red hot favourites” ahead of the Auld Enemies meeting on Saturday (the bookmakers strongly disagree, however, with England fancied to win with the gambling houses). The Scots have picked an unnervingly-familiar looking side. England have selected a backline of ballers able to play in many different positions.
And the weather? Well it’s set to be moody skies and tearful conditions.
Which on paper might not sound too appealing. But something about the clouds and this mix. Dark Februarys, an ancient rivalry and a competition full of promise just sucks us all in.
Gone is Gregor Townsend’s famous tombola. No major selection surprises for Scotland. Nowhere to hide. No excuses. Familiar units need to perform.
In is an England side of disruptors and wait-what-was-thats. Nick Isiekwe and Elliot Daly weren’t even in the original Six Nation squad, and here they are starting. This backline a hard one to predict with Henry Slade at 12 and utility runners scattered all over. Up front, England have gone for a bit of grit. Lest we forget Ellis Genge powered over from close-range in a low-scoring showdown at a soggy Murrayfield last time in Edinburgh.
England also have the ghosts of the previous Six Nations to exercise. Yes they lost to Scotland at home – and they’ve only beaten Scotland once in their last four meetings – but their whole tournament was poor. And yet, despite unavoidable selection issues lately, we keep hearing talk of New England. England 2.0. A change in direction. If that means winning this one, away from home, to defeat your oldest enemy, it would be a timely advertisement for this set-up.
And we should all strive to talk about how one wins this. Sod the am-dram. Let’s get down to proper Test action in front of a crowd full of voice and under a sky full of moisture.
What’s the big team news?
For the hosts, Jonny Gray returns after an autumn out, starting in the boilerhouse with fellow lock Grant Gilchrist. Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson start in a now-familiar looking back row, with Rory Sutherland, George Turner and Zander Fagerson making up the front row.
Last year’s Calcutta Cup hero Cameron Redpath is not included in the match-day squad, with Chris Harris and Sam Johnson in the centres. Elsewhere it’s as expected, with Finn Russell and Ali Price the half-backs.
On the bench, Ben White could win his first cap and Magnus Bradbury may make his first Scotland appearance since 202o.
With England, some of the biggest surprises are in the starting berths for players not originally in Eddie Jones’s squad. Nick Isiekwe starts at lock having come into the squad as cover for Courtney Lawes, while Elliot Daly will be running out with 13 on his back, as part of a versatile backline. Joe Marchant start on the wing, Max Malins is on the other and Henry Slade sports 12. And in the driving seat is Marcus Smith.
Up front Luke Cowan-Dickie gets the nod ahead of Jamie George at hooker while Ellis Genge starts at loosehead, with Joe Marler on the bench.
What have the coaches said?
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “The starting 15 we have named has a consistent feel to it, which is great for cohesion, but we will also benefit from returning players such as Jonny Gray and Rory Sutherland, who have been important players for us in recent seasons.”
England boss Eddie Jones said: ” Captaincy is not about the number of caps, it’s about the person who can lead a group of players by example. There is no better player in our squad than Tom to do that. He reminds me of a young Richie McCaw. It’s all about getting the team on the front foot. That goes in line with how we want to play the game.”
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Scotland v England, Saturday 5 February, Murrayfield
This match will be shown on the BBC, with kick-off in Edinburgh at 4.45pm. You can also listen to the match live on BBC 5 Live.
The referee for this one will be New Zealand’s Ben O’Keeffe, with Nic Berry (Australia) and Craig Evans (Wales) operating as assistants. Ben Whitehouse of Wales will be the TMO.
What are the line-ups?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Magnus Bradbury, Ben White, Blair Kinghorn, Sione Tuipulotu.
England: Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade, Joe Marchant; Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Curry (captain), Sam Simmonds.
Replacements: Jamie George, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Charlie Ewels, Alex Dombrandt, Harry Randall, George Ford, Jack Nowell.
The latest issue of Rugby World magazine – a Six Nations special – is in shops now.