Planet Rugby

Preview: England v Scotland

01st February 2013 05:49

Share:

Brad Barritt and Billy Twelvetrees having a drink

At the centre: Billy Twelvetrees

Despite having 42 fewer caps than one year ago, England are able to approach the 2013 Six Nations with real confidence (not arrogance).

It was the beginning of Stuart Lancaster's best Humpty Dumpty impersonation as bit by bit he rebuilt the squad following 'Ballgate' and boat jumps. Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell have done a fine job and this year it's Scotland who have an interim boss in charge.

Let's face it, the Scotland of 2012 were unlucky not to win at Murrayfield as a score from charge-down Charlie helped England pick up the victory. However, that proved to be the start of something under Lancaster as England went on to end with four wins from five before that December triumph.

Now it seems the English arrive at the next leg of their plan going forward to Rugby World Cup 2015 as Lancaster chooses to go with Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees as his much-desired ball playing number 12, a move he has craved for some time. Lancaster clearly believes the ex-Leicester Tiger has what England is missing - so much so that he has left expected replacement Jonathan Joseph out of the matchday 23.

The move is a risk of course as not only does it see Brad Barritt move out one position to 13, it also begs the question if the Saracen is the right player to profit from these supposed improved English attacking options. One option other than starting Joseph was to go with the familiar Barritt alongside Owen Farrell combination which has served Saracens so well on numerous occasions, recently against Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup (granted they are struggling). Should the exciting move pay off though, England will have another string to their bow and a long-term skilful midfield foil to either Farrell, Toby Flood or Freddie Burns.

The visitors to Twickenham have their own project given a platform this weekend as Sean Maitland makes the step up from Glasgow duty to the Scotland jersey. It has been a swift transition - unlike Tim Visser - but the former Crusaders finisher is a geniune outlet.

Despite Scotland being the current Wooden Spoon holders, England will not be cavalier on Saturday despite this week's strange outburst from Jim Telfer. Why? Well on paper this is a line-up that can mix it with all their Six Nations rivals, particularly at lock and back-row.

Another Saracen, Kelly Brown, is rightly retained as captain for the Championship and with Johnnie Beattie rewarded for excellent form at Montpellier, Scotland won't be bullied up front. Such an issue has seldom been the case as it regularly boils down to creativity in the backline. And Johnson has seemingly addressed that he requires Greig Laidlaw back at scrum-half and the more flair-oriented Ruaridh Jackson controlling matters from fly-half.

From both team's selections, it could be an open game as the Scottish public craves more than the four tries they scored in last year's Six Nations. England meanwhile weren't much better with seven crossings but with one year under their belt, the bar has been raised.

Ones to watch:

For England: It would have been interesting to see whether Billy Twelvetrees was named in the side had Manu Tuilagi been fit. The combination, while possibly not as robust as the Barritt-Tuilagi axis would offer England more on the creative front. As it is, Barritt is to wear 13 this weekend while Twelvetrees gets his first run wearing white. You can guarantee the camera will be focussed on both he and hooker Tom Youngs before kick-off as Leicester's converted centre is named ahead of Dylan Hartley. That is a selection based on form.

For Scotland: The return of Johnnie Beattie sees David Denton pushed to the bench for this opener. Beattie's strong form for Montpellier has earned him his recall. The 27-year-old won his last cap in 2011 and with Denton in reserve, the visitors have real quality in their squad. Stuart Hogg announced himself to the Six Nations stage last season but it is the two players either side of him who most of Saturday's attention will be focussed on as Tim Visser and Sean Maitland form a new wing partnership. Quality, yes, but will they receive the service.

Head-to-head: A couple of positions create interest on Saturday and they are the wing and openside. Mike Brown's switch to number 11 proved a masterstroke from Stuart Lancaster towards the end of 2012 and his battle with debutant Sean Maitland promises much. Maitland and Tim Visser have the potential to become a profitable combination, but Brown more than held his own against Cory Jane so will fancy his chances against another player from New Zealand's north island. Another battle of interest comes between the captains.

Previous results:

2012: England won 13-6 at Murrayfield
2011: England won 16-12 at Eden Park
2011: England won 22-16 at Twickenham
2010: 15-15 draw at Murrayfield
2009: England won 26-12 at Twickenham
2008: Scotland won 15-9 at Murrayfield
2007: England won 42-20 at Twickenham
2006: Scotland won 18-12 at Murrayfield
2005: England won 43-22 at Twickenham
2004: England won 35-13 at Murrayfield
2003: England won 40-9 at Twickenham

Prediction: Despite little pressure being on the visitors under their new boss, England will have too much here and should start their campign with a victory by around 15 points!

The teams:

England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (capt), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Toby Flood, 23 David Strettle.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Kelly Brown (capt), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Moray Low, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 David Denton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Max Evans.

Date: Saturday, 2 February
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces (France), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

By Adam Kyriacou
@PlanetRugbyAK

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 24
North Harbour vs Canterbury19:35
Thursday , September 25
Bay Of Plenty vs Northland19:35
Friday , September 26
Taranaki vs Auckland19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39