As European rugby’s best sides prepare for five crucial matches in a tournament like no other, we preview the action as Scotland take on England in the opening round of the Six Nations.
England begin their new era under the guidance of Australian Eddie Jones, the man tasked with bringing Six Nations titles, Grand Slams and World Cups back to Twickenham. They make the trip to Murrayfield in round one to face a rejuvenated Scotland side, still hurting from their controversial loss to Australia in the World Cup.
While Jones will bring through some of English rugby’s most exciting prospects over the next four years, for this opening clash he has opted for experience, selecting a side which boasts over 500 international caps.
Dylan Hartley leads the side from hooker and will be under pressure to keep a cool head. Chris Robshaw reverts to regular position of blindside flanker. James Haskell starts in the all-important role of openside, can he be effective at the breakdown? Can he deliver the turnover ball England have been lacking for so long?
George Ford and Owen Farrell form an intriguing 10/12 axis. A combination that worked well at junior level, but it has limited exposure at the highest level. Jonathan Joseph will be hoping to rediscover his spark after a slow start to his domestic season, but he is a match winner.
There are three debutants on the bench with Paul Hill, Jack Clifford and Ollie Devoto all poised to enter the international stage. While Scotland retain the majority of the side that played so well in the World Cup.
Jones begins Six Nations mind games
Eddie Jones has played mind games in the run up to the fixture and said: “It’s so different us going up there as underdogs. Scotland had a fantastic World Cup – they have excellent coaching staff and will be well prepared.
“So for us it’s a game where we can restore some pride in English rugby against a Scottish team on top of the world.”
While Scotland coach Vern Cotter reacted by saying, “I don’t know how Eddie works that out. It’s just a psychological lever that he’s trying to use, to take the pressure off himself.”
“I gather that England are still ranked ahead of us by World Rugby. I didn’t think England would need that, I thought they would be comfortable with the favourites’ tag.”
Despite his statements Jones will be expecting to come away from Murrayfield with a win and the perfect start to their RBS Six Nations campaign. England have an outstanding record against the Auld Enemy in recent seasons winning seven and drawing one of the last eight encounters.
After four consecutive second place finishes in the Six Nations, England fans are hungry for success. Can this team finally deliver starting with a win in Scotland?
Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg; 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Mark Bennett, 12-Matt Scott, 11-Tommy Seymour; 10-Finn Russell, 9-Greig Laidlaw (captain); 1-Alasdair Dickinson, 2-Ross Ford, 3-WP Nel, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Jonny Gray, 6-John Barclay, 7-John Hardie, 8-David Denton
Replacements: 16-Stuart McInally, 17-Gordon Reid, 18-Zander Fagerson, 19-Tim Swinson, 20-Blair Cowan, 21-Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22-Duncan Weir, 23-Duncan Taylor
England: 15-Mike Brown; 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Owen Farrell, 11-Jack Nowell; 10-George Ford, 9-Danny Care; 1-Joe Marler, 2-Dylan Hartley (captain), 3-Dan Cole, 4-Joe Launchbury, 5-George Kruis, 6-Chris Robshaw, 7-James Haskell, 8-Billy Vunipola
Replacements: 16-Jamie George, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Paul Hill, 19-Courtney Lawes, 20-Jack Clifford, 21-Ben Youngs, 22-Alex Goode, 23-Ollie Devoto