Preview: Scotland v England

Gregor Townsend and Eddie Jones will be looking to get their sides back on track as the oldest of rivals renew hostilities in a mouth-watering Calcutta Cup clash on Saturday.

Both England and Scotland fell short last weekend as they fell to defeats to France and Ireland, respectively, in the opening round of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations.

While Scotland showed promise in attack with Adam Hastings expertly pulling the strings in Dublin, costly mistakes and indiscipline proved decisive against the Ireland.

Scotland can certainly take positives from their showing in the Irish capital but they will be keen to make the most of home advantage and reignite their Championship campaign.

Meanwhile, England know they cannot afford another slip up after their second-half comeback against France came up short, losing 24-17 to Les Bleus in Paris.

A rejuvenated, youthful French caused Jones’ men no end of problems in the first half but the Red Rose will hope they can rediscover the form that took them to the final in Japan.

The two sides played out one of the greatest Championship games in history last year, drawing 38-38 at Twickenham after Scotland mounted a stunning second-half comeback.

England surrendered a 31-point advantage before Scotland got their noses in front, only for George Ford to salvage a point in the highest-scoring draw in international history.

The rematch on Saturday is likely to be just as unpredictable, especially with England ringing the changes following their defeat to Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Sunday.

Willi Heinz, Lewis Ludlam, Mako Vunipola, George Kruis and Jonathan Joseph all return to the starting line-up, while Ben Earl and Tom Dunn could make their debuts from the bench.

The hosts, meanwhile, have made just the one change from their narrow defeat as Magnus Bradbury comes back into the starting XV to replace Nick Haining at No.8.

WHAT THEY SAID

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend said: “We were proud of parts of our performance in Dublin at a very difficult venue. The challenge for the squad is to replicate that level and take our chances when they come, in order to win tight games.

“We were disappointed not to beat Ireland but the opportunity to face England, against whom we are bidding to retain the Calcutta Cup, is one that excites players, coaches and supporters alike.

“England are an excellent team whose run to the Rugby World Cup final was no fluke.

“They will be smarting from their opener in Paris and Eddie [Jones, Head Coach] will have them primed to come to Edinburgh and put in an improved performance.

“This famous fixture is one that stands out given the history surrounding it and we will have to be at our very best to stand a chance of winning against our oldest rivals.”

England head coach Eddie Jones said: “Preparation this week has been great. We have sought to address the issues from the France game and have had a really good and sharp preparation for Scotland.

“Scotland are a dangerous side. They like to play with a lot of width and with a lot of flow and tempo in their game. We want to make sure we dominate the gain line.

“Their win record against England at Murrayfield is substantially higher than their overall record against us, so we have to recognise they are a dangerous beast and we have to be at our best to beat them.”

KEY BATTLE – Huw Jones vs Jonathan Joseph

The match-up at outside centre is a story of two players who have yet to hit the heights of years gone by and whoever can rediscover some form on Saturday could decide the outcome.

Jonathan Joseph has found himself behind Manu Tuilagi in the England shirt in recent times for England and has not scored a try for his country since November 2017.

Similarly, Huw Jones was unable to sustain the impact of his introduction into the Scotland side that saw him score 10 tries in his first 14 tests, having not crossed the line since February 2018, and was omitted from Gregor Townsend’s Rugby World Cup squad.

Coincidentally, both made their most recent and significant international contributions against each other; Joseph grabbing a hat-trick in England’s 61-21 win over Scotland at Twickenham in 2017.

Jones also crossed for a brace in the Scots’ most recent victory over the Red Rose at BT Murrayfield in 2018 – and their midfield battle will prove vital once again in a physical encounter.

Both have it within them to be dangerous, exciting and deadly when on the ball, it’s just a matter of which one can leave their mark on such a colossal occasion.

STATS – POWERED BY AWS

• As of Saturday, England’s most recent victory over Scotland would’ve been 1,064 days ago on March 11th, 2017 in a 61-21 win.
• Scotland have only beaten the English on four occasions since the Six Nations’ inception in 2000
• Both sides have 29 wins each when the Calcutta Cup has been contested in Scotland
• Last year’s sensational 38-38 stalemate was the highest-scoring draw in Test history
• Joseph starts on Saturday as one of only four men to score a hat-trick in the 141-year history of the Calcutta Cup

FANTASY WATCH

This is the game to go hard or go home. With so many intangibles at play, it’s worth throwing caution to the wind and backing some bold choices.

Willi Heinz (10.0) showed some promise in his brief cameo at the Stade De France while Lewis Ludlam (12.1) and George Furbank (12.3) are both outside calls to make an impact.

Meanwhile, the returning Magnus Bradbury (10.8) will be a big carrier for Scotland on Saturday while Sam Johnson (13.7) and Rory Sutherland (10.4) are looking to pick up where they left off last week in Dublin.

If you’re instead looking for some household names to bolster your ranks look no further than Jonny May (16.4) and Stuart Hogg (16.3) who were both in fine form in Round 1.

TEAMS

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (C) (Exeter Chiefs), 14 Sean Maitland (Saracens), 13 Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), 11 Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), 10 Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors), 9 Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors), 1 Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh), 2 Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), 3 Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), 4 Scott Cummings (Glasgow Warriors), 5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), 6 Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh), 7 Hamish Watson (Edinburgh), 8 Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh)

Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally (Edinburgh), 17 Allan Dell (London Irish), 18 Simon Berghan (Edinburgh), 19 Ben Toolis (Edinburgh), 20 Nick Haining (Edinburgh), 21 George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), 22 Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints), 23 Chris Harris (Gloucester)

England: 15 George Furbank (Northampton Saints), 14 Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), 13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), 12 Owen Farrell (C) (Saracens), 11 Elliot Daly (Saracens), 10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers), 9 Willi Heinz (Gloucester Rugby), 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens), 2 Jamie George (Saracens), 3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens), 5 George Kruis (Saracens), 6 Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints), 7 Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby), 8 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)

Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby), 17 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), 18 Will Stuart (Bath Rugby), 19 Joe Launchbury (Wasps), 20 Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), 21 Ben Earl (Saracens), 22 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), 23 Ollie Devoto (Exeter Chiefs)

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