Denton starts, Russell back for Scotland

Date published: March 12 2015

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made a handful of changes for their clash with England at Twickenham, as Finn Russell returns at number 10.

Edinburgh number eight David Denton is the only player among the quintet not to have featured in the 2015 Six Nations Championship so far. He replaces Johnnie Beattie, having returned from a calf strain sustained in January.

Denton is joined by club mates Dougie Fife – try-scorer against France in round one – and Matt Scott, who get their first starts of the campaign in place of the injured Sean Lamont and Alex Dunbar (both knee); the latter going down in training this morning.

Dunbar's knee was scanned within an hour of the injury thanks to the excellent working relationship with healthcare partner Spire Murrayfield Hospital. An update on his condition will follow in due course.

Fly-half Finn Russell starts in place of Peter Horne, following the completion of a two-week suspension, while experienced Saracens lock, Jim Hamilton, comes in for Tim Swinson.

"Jim comes in and will bring his physicality and understanding of English rugby to our forward pack," said Cotter.

"It's good to have Dave Denton back as he provides us with strong ball-carrying and strong defence. He's also a very good lineout forward and will give us a bit more physical density against a big forward pack.

"It's been tough on Finn to sit out and it's great to have him back. He's slotted straight back in to the structure we're looking for.

"Finally, Dougie came on and played well against France and has had a couple of games with his club with a few work-ons.

"We're looking for him to bring his enthusiasm, energy and high work-rate, particularly in kick-chase and receipt."

With the four changes made, the reselection of prop Euan Murray will see the tighthead equal Allan Jacobsen's all-time appearance record for a Scotland prop (65).

He will partner Alasdair Dicksinon and fit-again Ross Ford, who has recovered from the back spasm suffered against Italy to start in an experienced front-row.

Jonny Gray remains in the second-row to pack down with Hamilton, while Blair Cowan and Rob Harley start together for the sixth consecutive time in the back-row, alongside Denton.

Captain Greig Laidlaw will again partner the returning Russell from scrum-half, with the back-line completed by Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg. 

There are three further changes to the Scotland replacements, altering the balance in favour of the forward pack, six to two.

Swinson drops to the bench to replace Ben Toolis, however it is the inclusion of both Johnnie Beattie and Adam Ashe that leaves Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Greig Tonks as the only back replacements.

"This is a very important game," added Cotter.

"It will be played away from home at a very intense level and will allow us to assess further our ability to operate away from home in a hostile environment.

"Our focus, however, has been on ourselves and how we can perform better, by identifying the areas that we can control – like improving our skill-sets and reinforcing our cohesion – to withstand the difficult times and also apply some pressure."

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Adam Ashe, 22 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 23 Greig Tonks.

Date: Saturday, March 14
Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Assessor: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand)