England suffered a heart-breaking last minute loss to France in Paris last week while Scotland were embarrassed by Ireland. England have one of the strongest packs in the world while Scotland’s went backwards fast last week. Who’s your money on to win the Calcutta Cup?
Well it won’t be as easy as you think. This is England, and the whole of Scotland, let alone the 15 men on the pitch, will come out fighting. Add that to the crumbling Murrayfield pitch and the scoreline could be closer than you think.
There’s good and bad news for Scottish fans. The bad news is that Ross Ford is still starting despite trending on Twitter last week, and not for the right reasons. The good news is that Scott Johnson has finally picked a proper openside, albeit at Kelly Brown’s expense. Chris Fusaro is the man that comes in at seven and if domestic form is anything to go by, he could rule the breakdown over the strong English backrow.
There are only two other changes to the starting lineup. One of them is forced as Tommy Seymour replaces the injured Sean Maitland on the wing, but Scotland fans can rejoice once again as Matt Scott makes his return to the midfield. Scott should provide the attacking platform that is desperately needed and any try scoring chances will probably go through him or Stuart Hogg.
On the bench, Scott Lawson returns to the squad in place of Pat MacArthur while Jonny Gray gets the nod over big brother Richie. Kelly Brown’s absence from the squad entirely means that Greig Laidlaw will captain the team.
Stuart Lancaster shows how proud he was of his team as he keeps the exact same 23 that put up a fight in France; this means that there is still no specialist 10 on the bench though despite many calling for George Ford to be in the squad.
The only notable inclusion is that of Jonny May even though he broke his nose nine minutes into the match last week. Wasps man Matt Mullan is also travelling up to Edinburgh so there must be concerns over the fitness of either Joe Marler or Mako Vunipola.
Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell continue their burgeoning partnership in the centres, with May and Nowell outside them. Mike Brown will be hoping to play more of the game this week in his preferred position of fullback.
All eyes on
Keeping your captain out of the matchday squad is something that tends to be quite rare nowadays, so a lot of faith is being put in Chris Fusaro. Calls for his inclusion have been long-standing after a couple of brilliant seasons with Glasgow and he can be the man to help fix Scotland’s problems at the breakdown.
Debut nerves and jitters should have disappeared now for Jack Nowell and he will hope to have a similar game to last week’s second half. He faces off against Sean Lamont who may not be as quick as Nowell, but if the Ireland game is anything to go by, Nowell should have put in some tackling practise to help contain the Scot’s physicality.
Head to head: Matt Scott v Billy Twelvetrees
Matt Scott and Billy Twelvetrees are two players who are part of the modern-era centre mould. They are both comfortable with either acting as playmaker or trucking the ball up to help their team get over the gainline, and they both possess large frames but are sprightly enough on their feet to trouble opposition defences. Chances are it will be a forward battle on Saturday but if either of these players gets the ball, expect the game to liven up.
Penalty, penalty, penalty, TMO, penalty, penalty, is probably how the game is going to go and expect the back-three to get pretty cold in the Scottish weather. When all is said and done, it’s going to be the team with the best discipline that wins the match. The ball will be slippery, tackles will be missed and it won’t go down as one of the classic Calcutta Cup matches. England to win by 9.
By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images