England should have the edge up front in Murrayfield

Lewis Ludlam

After a disappointing opener to the championship, England face Scotland in the Calcutta Cup, a trophy currently held by the Scots.

Many will see the line-up this time around in a more positive light with Ben Youngs making way for Willi Heinz at 9 and Courtney Lawes out for Lewis Ludlam at Flanker. A few points of contention for English rugby fans remain, including the decision to persist with Tom Curry at 8, a second showing for George Furbank and the continuation of the Ford-Farrell axis.

Eddie Jones is obviously looking at Curry at 8 as a long-term project, believing that he can improve. The first thing he will need to fix is his control at the base of the scrum – we saw the ball squirt out too early in key areas last weekend.

Many will be relieved to see Ben Earl on the bench this week, who can make an impact if needed. If he does come on, expect to see Curry shifted back to flanker and Earl slot in at 8. Earl is one of the quickest forwards you will ever see and is explosive from the back of the scrum, but may lack the size needed at 8 in the international game.

Furbank is given a second chance at 15; it was a nervy performance under the high ball in the first half against France. Adam Hastings and Stuart Hogg may look to put him under some pressure this week although, this would be going totally against what the Scots did last week.

Scotland were intent on running the ball in Dublin – they put together some aesthetic patterns of play against Ireland, using the full width of the pitch.

Where they came up short was their inability to establish their power game against a good Irish defence, particularly in the 22, where they couldn’t find that big carry to get them over the line. Scotland kicked only 494m in the first round, the lowest of all 6 teams, whilst England conversely kicked the most, 1138.6m.

Some England fans have been calling for a shift at flyhalf. Owen Farrell, arguably one of the best fly halves in the world, has spent much of the last few years under Eddie Jones playing at inside centre. After Manu Tuilagi went off, Farrell found himself in an unfamiliar role, taking crash balls to try and give England front foot ball. Jonathan Joseph is a fantastic player in space, but his game plan is to get on the outside shoulder and simply doesn’t offer the same direct ball carrying threat that Tuilagi does.

In recent years when Tuilagi has not been available, Jones has looked to Ben Te’o (no longer up for selection after a move to Japan) as a sort of ‘Manu Lite’. Where will the punch in midfield come from? Personally, I am happy to see Ford and Farrell lining up at 10 and 12: this offers great creativity at second receiver. I do feel however, it needs to be coupled with a big ball-carrying runner at 13 to balance the books. Perhaps this would have been a chance for Ollie Devoto to step up to the plate?
What will we see on Saturday?

Scotland will once again be without star fly half Finn Russell, however, Hastings stepped in last week and was more than able to execute their expansive style of play. We can’t expect anything less than a repeat this week from the Scots.

England were disappointing last week, let’s make no bones about that. And if Stuart Hogg hadn’t dropped the ball over the line who knows what could have happened against the Irish. Scotland looked good ball-in-hand, but the game is won upfront. Scotland didn’t get much from numerous visits to the 22, and that’s why I’m predicting an England win.

As pleasing on the eye as their brand of rugby is, will it have enough punch to put points on the board against an England side that really have something to prove now? Lose this weekend and all hopes of lifting the trophy are gone. Surely, we will see more from this England team at Murrayfield.

By Ed Francis

18 thoughts on “England should have the edge up front in Murrayfield

  1. I just feel that Scotland will be more up for this match than England who appear to be suffering from some sort of malaise and with the short turn around between away games have little time to address the issues. Against the the Auld enemy at home in front of a hostile crowd i can see a repeat of 2018 on the cards and an extended vacation for the Calcutta cup

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  2. Youngs for Heinz is a temporary fix. Lud for Lawes may improve breakdown speed, but will it improve ball carrying capacity? Don’t get if Earl is too light for 8, how his inclusion, albeit from the bench, solves this position’s issue. Why not just pick a heavier 8? Diamond is bemused by Curry’s continuance at 8. He won’t play him there for Sale. If Earl comes on at 8, moving Curry to his normal 7 spot, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of having the latter at 8 in the 1st place? What shift at fly1/2? Ford is the incumbent. Why is Farrell one of best flys in the world? Does he possess superior speed off the mark, sidestepping ability, breaching of opposition lines, accuracy of pass, defence, decision making options? If he were, one the best, why is he at 12? Superior goal kicking, ok ( leaving his expertise at no arms tackling), otherwise I find this claim unscientific, subjective, unproven. Anyway, for Jones to consider dropping, or even subbing, his captain seems almost unthinkable as this would surely undermine his decision making beliefs & thus his position. The only potential alternative in the squad at 12 is Devoto, but as he hardly ever features for England, this change is practically a likely non starter. Mind you, alongside Daly, these 2 could have made an exciting alternative midfield with the additional attraction of alieviating over reliance of the injury prone Tui. Especially so, as the latter may be too long in the next WC tooth. Also, Thorley really should be given a go at wing. If not now, then when? Is he Likely to be more of a risk out wide than the, intially at least, Furbank was at 15? Given this squad’s make up, Daly could have reverted to f/back. Anyway, leaving pipe dreams aside, can more be expected from England on Saturday? You bet. Will they deliver by ‘brutalising’ the Scots up front? Quite probably & possibly in both instances. However, Twickenham’s last clash may linger in both teams’ mindsets, so we’ll have to see. Also, although Scotland’s back line approach play looked impressive v Ireland, they must vastly improve their scoring rate in the red zone to have a realistic chance of prevailing. Not sure that they or Townsend have in in them though. OTOH, being at home can only bolster their belief & surely lightening won’t strike the crass Hogg again. Nevertheless, England ought to have too much for Scotland in a game that neither side can afford to lose, but which 1 side probably will. I’m not putting my money on a draw.. I think.

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  3. Ignoring Jones weird selections my greatest concern is the psychological state of the English squad.What disappointed most about Paris was lack of intensity and with it a deep deep desire to win.England need to change their mindset if they are to win I believe

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    1. Wales were very poor playing their first game in Paris last year and really should have lost. It wasn’t a case of their clawing the lead back but France making ridiculous blunders. ( same as in the World cup! ) It’s kind of strange how teams sometimes disappear and sometimes turn up. Certainly Wales’s results from last year including the slam conceal how extremely fortunate they were on 2 occasions against France.

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  4. Totally agree with Harlequin on this. I felt the France game was going to be a huge measure of where this squad was mentally after the WC final – win away in France (with a decent performance) then it would have been clear they have learnt from the WC loss. It went the other way and in horrid fashion. Ignore the scoreline and bonus point, that performance was weak and poor. IMO France could have gone up a gear but in typical French fashion they went off the boil a bit when the game looked all but done.

    We have talent, we know this squad can play well, but coupled with injuries, EJ mish mash selections and the Sarries debacle its just all a bit of a mess & I suspect many players may want to see the back of this 6N already and EJ booted back to Australia.

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  5. I heard Marler has been giving the Sarries lads some right stick/banter. Wouldn’t suprise me if he has gone too far and caused some friction so EJ has sent him to the naughtly step.

    Maybe on the subject EJ has not included Spencer in the squad through fear of breaching the salary cap…..

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    1. Marler: Nice underarmor Maro did you get that as a present from Nigel? Whats the padding made out of £50 notes?

      Hey Mako Can i stay at yours next week i hear you have a nice new kitchen

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