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 , November 21
Harlequins vs Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Preview
Newcastle Falcons vs GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Preview
Saturday , November 22
Exeter vs Wasps15:00
London Irish vs Bath15:00
Sunday , November 23
Saracens vs Northampton13:00
London Welsh vs Leicester Tigers15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 22
Italy vs South Africa15:00
Scotland vs Tonga14:30
Ireland vs Australia16:30
Wales vs New Zealand17:30
England vs Samoa19:00
France vs Argentina21:00
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 21
Dragons vs MunsterDragons vs Munster Preview
Scarlets vs Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Preview
Connacht vs ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Preview
Ulster vs OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Preview
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs Leinster14:30
Edinburgh vs Cardiff Blues16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle FalconsBath vs Newcastle Falcons Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Romania 13 - 18 JapanRomania vs Japan Report
France 29 - 26 AustraliaFrance vs Australia Report
Scotland 16 - 24 New ZealandScotland vs New Zealand Report
England 28 - 31 South AfricaEngland vs South Africa Report
Tonga 40 - 12 USATonga vs USA Report
Wales 17 - 13 FijiWales vs Fiji Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 14
Gloucester 15 - 22 HarlequinsGloucester vs Harlequins Report
Northampton 18 - 24 ExeterNorthampton vs Exeter Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 18 - 20 ArgentinaItaly vs Argentina Report
Canada 13 - 23 SamoaCanada vs Samoa Report
More International Match results
LV= Cup
Cardiff Blues 19 - 13 Scarlets
Ospreys 35 - 51 DragonsOspreys vs Dragons Report
Sunday , November 9
Wasps 43 - 22 London Irish
London Welsh 9 - 18 Gloucester
Leicester 29 - 13 Sale SharksLeicester vs Sale Sharks Report
More LV= Cup results
International Match
Saturday , November 8
Italy 24 - 13 SamoaItaly vs Samoa Report
Wales 28 - 33 AustraliaWales vs Australia Report
England 21 - 24 New ZealandEngland vs New Zealand Report
Georgia 9 - 23 TongaGeorgia vs Tonga Report
Ireland 29 - 15 South AfricaIreland vs South Africa Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton726
2Exeter724
3Bath724
4Saracens724
5Wasps720