Talking points ahead of England’s Calcutta Cup match with Scotland

England and Scotland will meet for the 141st time in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, where Steve Borthwick will be looking to begin his reign as the new Red Rose head coach.

Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the Guinness Six Nations clash.

Renewal of the competition

After almost a decade of England’s dominance, the oldest competition in international rugby has been won by Scotland at Murrayfield in 2018.

The Scots have won three of their five meetings since then and staged an impressive 38-38 draw in London four years ago, when they fought back from a 31-0 deficit.

Handing England the banana skin means diminishing Scotland’s talents and having stormed Twickenham for the first time since 1983 on their most recent visit, there will be no shortage of self-belief.

A fresh start

England head coach Steve Borthwick with his squad

England head coach Steve Borthwick with his squad (Adam Davy/PA)

Borthwick has cut a statesmanlike figure since replacing Eddie Jones last month and after a disappointing underachievement in 2022, fans are desperate for the head coach to lift the gloom hanging over English rugby.

Jones has given the ex-Leicester boss a hospital pass, and he has found a group of players who are very much in tune with the search for an identity.

While welcoming his predecessor, there is no mention of this autumn’s World Cup as Borthwick selects in-form players who have been given clear instructions as they hope to fight back for the Calcutta Cup.

Life beyond Manu

Manu Tuilagi is bowled by Steve Borthwick

Steve Borthwick misses Manu Tuilagi (Andrew Matthews/PA)

For the previous two coaching regimes, Manu Tuilagi was central to the game plan with only long injuries leaving the team lacking.

Seeing a player not performing at his explosive best, Borthwick has taken the brave decision to leave him out of the entire 23 by selecting the middle partnership of Owen Farrell and Joe Marchant.

What the midfield loses in punch, it gains in dynamism. There remains one connection to the Jones era, however, with Marcus Smith and Farrell continuing in the controversial playing axis that has yet to convince.

Attack options

Ali Price, Chris Harris, Zander Fagerson, Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson may be missing five members of the Lions squad that toured South Africa in 2023 – the first two out of form, the others due to injured – but they fielded their side bristling with attacking promise.

The inclusion of Ben White ahead of Price at half-back rewards the London Irish and will bring pace, although Huw Jones is more of an offensive threat than Harris at outside centre, but it will be the big-hitting stalwarts Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg Seriously. England on edge.

Consistency required

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Jamie Ritchie will be hoping to win the Six Nations

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and captain Jamie Ritchie will be hoping to win the Six Nations (John Walton/PA)

Scotland’s ability to take down great opposition cannot be doubted, but it is a recurring theme that their failure to produce big wins in the Six Nations has prevented them from challenging for the title.

For the past two years England have been at the top of their game, raising hopes that their quest for a first Championship crown since 1999 is a real possibility, only to fall short. Until they find consistency, they still won’t succeed.

Leave a comment