The England team Steve Borthwick SHOULD pick for the Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland

Colin Newboult
England centre Manu Tuilagi, head coach Steve Borthwick, and forward George Martin.

England centre Manu Tuilagi, head coach Steve Borthwick, and forward George Martin.

England head into round three of the 2024 Six Nations looking to reclaim the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield when they tackle Scotland.

Steve Borthwick’s side have won their opening two matches of the year, narrowly defeating Italy and Wales.

However, there have been some shortcomings in their performances and ahead of the crunch clash against Scotland, we take a look at the changes Borthwick should make to his side.

How England should lineup v Scotland

15 Freddie Steward: An easy call with the full-back a rock at the back for England. Steward was utterly superb under the high ball, both in attack and defence, against Wales and gives the Red Rose a real aerial threat. There are still concerns about his pace, especially on the turn, but he reads the game well, which generally makes up for his deficiencies.

14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso: As we’ve mentioned, one of Steward’s downsides is his lack of speed, which means that Borthwick could do with some athleticism on the two wings, and it would be good to see Feyi-Waboso from the start. The naturally conservative England coach might not want to expose him to the Murrayfield cauldron, but if you really believe in a player, then they need to get a chance at some point.

13 Henry Slade: Is getting to grips with the new defensive system and has generally adapted pretty well. We still need to see more from the Exeter Chiefs playmaker, but he is taking responsibility, which is good to see. One of our criticisms of Slade previously was that he tended to let games pass him by at Test level, but it is excellent to see him getting involved consistently.

12 Manu Tuilagi: Fraser Dingwall will get more England caps in the future, but at the moment, the team really needs some power behind the scrum. Feyi-Waboso will also add that but Tuilagi is that focal point in the centre as his presence naturally draws in defenders, which can open the space out wide. Going up against the threatening Scottish combination of Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones, an experienced operator is always a key asset.

11 Tommy Freeman: Has played on the left wing for England before, hence why he has been shifted over. He pops up everywhere for Northampton Saints, so his ability to play well is not limited to which wing he plays on. Despite being quiet against Wales, Freeman showed his quality against Italy, and he will be helped by having some more power in the side, which will hopefully give him more room to attack.

Effective half-backs

10 George Ford: Some of the criticism of Ford is strange, to be honest. He hasn’t had a great season, but the fly-half was one of the main reasons why the Red Rose managed to edge past Wales last weekend. The attack still needs work, but that’s more of a structural and balance issue with the team, and more game time should help correct that.

9 Alex Mitchell: Has yet to truly spark to life at Test level, but again, that’s more of a team problem. Mitchell’s kicking game has impressed us over the past few months and played a crucial role in their run to the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. It also got England out of a few challenging situations against Wales, so he very much deserves to keep his place.

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A switch in the back-row

8 Ben Earl: Continues to excel in the number eight jersey. He’s not the biggest back-row, but he certainly carries well in traffic and often gives the team go-forward. Alex Dombrandt could be an option, with Earl moving to openside, and later down the line, Zach Mercer will hopefully get a shot, but as it stands, the Saracen is clearly the first choice at the base of the scrum.

7 Ben Curry: Sam Underhill hasn’t really done anything wrong, but one noticeable aspect of England’s play has been their lack of turnover threat at the breakdown. It could well just be the way that they are defending at the moment, which is causing that, but we feel Curry could add a different dimension to the contact area. He hits pretty hard, too.

6 George Martin: If he stays fit, Martin will have a long international career. He played at lock during the Rugby World Cup, but for us, the 22-year-old is Courtney Lawes’ heir in the blindside jersey. Athletic and powerful, the Leicester Tiger is a superb tackler and will very much suit this aggressive defensive system. Ethan Roots played well against Italy, but Martin will combine nicely with the lock combination.


5 Ollie Chessum: Another Leicester youngster who could also feasibly feature on the blindside, but he is developing a nice partnership with Itoje. A good ball carrier and excellent in the lineout, Chessum could become a superb second-row for England.

4 Maro Itoje: After a difficult couple of years by his high standards, the Red Rose’s star forward re-found his form at the Rugby World Cup and has continued in that fashion in the 2024 Six Nations. Itoje has been a ubiquitous presence in the tournament so far and has been an absolute nuisance for both Italy and Wales.

3 Dan Cole: Did well off the bench against Wales, but we don’t like him in that ‘impact’ role. A much better player to start the game, with Will Stuart, who is a powerful carrier, someone who could take advantage of a tiring defence in the second period.

2 Jamie George: The captain, who has started life in the leadership role well. Enough said.

1 Joe Marler: Has done his job effectively in the first two games, but Borthwick will want more scrum dominance from the loosehead. However, like Cole, he is more suited in the starting role and should keep his place in the XV for the Scotland clash.

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16 Theo Dan: Luke Cowan-Dickie has recovered from injury, but Dan has made a significant impression in his brief cameos so far.

17 Ellis Genge: Not at his best at the moment, but still offers plenty in both the loose and tight.

18 Will Stuart: We think there’s an international player in there, but we are waiting for it to come out. Hopefully, a bench role will help that.

19 Alex Coles: Did well off the bench against Wales and offers both mobility and a lineout presence in the second-row. Can also play blindside.

20 Chandler Cunningham-South: Gets in over Underhill due to his versatility and the fact that he has impressed off the bench in the first two matches.

21 Danny Care: Has been solid off the bench so far. We would like to see Ben Spencer at some point, but you can’t argue with how Care performed against Wales.

22 Fin Smith: We were debating on going for a 6-2 split due to Slade’s ability to cover fly-half, but ultimately England need that natural replacement if Ford goes down.

23 Elliot Daly: The ultimate utility back. Covers wing, centre and full-back.

READ MORE: CONFIRMED: Three return for England but one key player still injured ahead of Calcutta Cup