Talking points ahead of England’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland
England and Scotland will clash for the 141st time in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown at Twickenham, where Steve Borthwick will be looking to make a winning start to his reign as the new Red Rose head coach.
Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the Guinness Six Nations collision.
🏆 The Calcutta Cup through the years.#GuinnessSixNations | #ENGvSCO pic.twitter.com/RFdxLkMlR0
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 2, 2023
After nearly a decade of English dominance, the oldest rivalry in international rugby has been tipped on its head since Scotland triumphed at Murrayfield in 2018.
The Scots have won three of their five meetings since and also engineered a stunning 38-38 draw in London four years ago, during which they fought back from a 31-0 deficit.
To call it a banana skin fixture for England is to downplay the talent in Scotland’s side and having stormed Twickenham for the first time since 1983 in their most recent visit, there will be no shortage of self-belief.
Borthwick has cut a statesmanlike figure since replacing Eddie Jones last month and following a 2022 of dismal underachievement, fans are eager for the new head coach to lift the gloom hanging over English rugby.
The former Leicester boss has been given a hospital pass by Jones, inheriting a muddled group of players in search of an identity.
In a welcome departure from his predecessor, there has been no mention of this autumn’s World Cup with Borthwick picking form players who have been given clear instructions in the hope of wrestling back the Calcutta Cup.
Life beyond Manu
For the previous two coaching regimes, Manu Tuilagi has been central to the game plan with only his lengthy succession of injuries resulting in omission from the team.
Seeing a player who is not operating as his explosive best, Borthwick has taken the brave decision to leave him out of the 23 altogether by choosing a centre partnership of Owen Farrell and Joe Marchant.
What the midfield loses in punch, it gains in dynamism. One connection with the Jones era remains, however, with Marcus Smith and Farrell continuing in the contentious playmaking axis that has yet to convince.
Touchdown in London. #AsOne pic.twitter.com/DthttIYK3I
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 3, 2023
Scotland may be missing five members of the Lions squad that toured South Africa in 2023 in Ali Price, Chris Harris, Zander Fagerson, Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson – the first two left out on form, the others on injury grounds – but they field a side bristling with attacking promise.
Ben White’s inclusion ahead of Price at scrum-half rewards his form for London Irish and he will bring tempo, while Huw Jones is a greater offensive threat than Harris at outside centre, but it is swashbuckling stalwarts Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg who will really put England on edge.
There can be no doubting Scotland’s ability to pick off major opposition, but their failure to stitch together big wins in the Six Nations has been a recurring theme that has prevented them from challenging for the title.
For the last two years they have toppled England in the opener, raising hopes that their search for a first Championship crown since 1999 is a genuine possibility, only to then fall away. Until they find consistency, success will continue to elude them.