• Preview: Scotland vs England

    England and Scotland will be looking to get their Six Nations campaigns back on track when they meet at Murrayfield on Saturday.

    Neither team may have won last weekend, but England fared drastically better than Scotland in their loss to France in Paris, narrowly losing out to Gäel Fickou's gliding score. It was a performance of true character and resilience from Stuart Lancaster's young squad – with two new-caps in the backline – that has received more praise than criticism, despite the loss.

    What is so pleasing about England at the moment is the confidence they are playing with, along with the obvious improvements in their game

    Owen Farrell has noticeably enhanced his attacking game – he is bold enough to run the ball himself and is playing flatter up on the defensive line. Danny Care's exile appears to have benefited him with a sublime showing in Paris, the only mystery being why he was taken off. Billy Vunipola, a carrier unlike any England have seen for some time, is the new ace in the pack.

    Now other areas require work. England's lineout tends to stutter when needed most, a 5m misthrow last weekend being the example. They also cannot expect to start as slowly as they did in Paris and then come back to win matches every time.

    Owen Farrell has noticeably improved his attacking game – he is bold enough to run the ball himself and is playing flatter up on the defensive line

    Losing in Paris is just about acceptable, but wins away to Scotland and Italy are now compulsory for England, with the challenges of facing Ireland and Wales at Twickenham lying in between.

    Scotland know something about challenges. Dropping your captain entirely from the match-day squad is either bold or lunacy, but the fact is Kelly Brown isn't an openside flanker. Chris Fusaro, uncapped, will offer more at the breakdown but to not have Brown working on the blindside or even in the squad is puzzling. He brings great leadership and character to a Scottish side that is low on confidence.

    In Dublin, Scotland kept Ireland at bay until half-time but were then swept away, their hosts proving too clinical and ruthless in attack.

    Ruthlessness is something Scotland sorely lack. The ambition to play a more expansive game is admirable, but worthless if chances are not taken. Too often Scotland's carriers are too focused on taking contact rather than looking wide, suggesting a lack of confidence or skill, or maybe both.

    Losing Sean Maitland for the next eight weeks doesn't help Scotland's attack but the return of Matt Scott at inside centre is a plus.

    The onus is on new captain Greig Laidlaw and his halfback companion Duncan Weir to attack the space out wide rather than fear it. In Scotland's last five matches at Murrayfield they have only scored tries against Japan.

    Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c) 8 David Denton, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
    Subs: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Max Evans.

    England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
    Subs: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Brad Barritt, 23 Alex Goode.

    Preview: Ireland vs Wales

    Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP Photo

    Post by

    Simon Borchardt