With two wins out of two, England enter the first fallow week for the 2024 Six Nations on good winning form. However, the fact remains that the wins have by no means been emphatic, with England achieving narrow victories against Italy (27-24) and Wales (16-14) so far in the competition.
Despite the manner of the victories, the wins count all the same and England sit at second in the 2024 Six Nations table. Ireland are at the top of the pack with two points to the good, as they achieved bonus point wins in their opening two fixtures. After a week of rest, recovery and re-focussing England will turn their attention to Scotland, with a trip up to Murrayfield scheduled in for Saturday February 24th.
With eleven days between now and the next match for Steve Borthwick’s side, it is difficult to definitivly pick the squad to take on Scotland in round three. As Marcus Smith presented in the pre-tournament camp in Girona, injuries can happen at any time and a forced withdrawal could well be thrown into the mix ahead of the journey north of the border. Similarly, there are handful of hopeful injured players looking to come back to the squad, with their sights set on Scotland for a return to the red rose.
Here is RUCK’s predicted England team to face Scotland, in round three of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.
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15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
14. Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints)
11. Elliot Daly (Saracens)
Consistency is key to building success in test match rugby, and after the first two weekends of the Six Nations, Borthwick looks to have identified his first choice back-three. We expect more of the same for the test against Scotland, with the biggest outside back change taking place amongst the replacements. We’ve opted for Freddie Steward to start at fullback, following an outstanding run out against Wales where he was narrowly pipped by Ben Earl to the Player of the Match award.
Steward was outstanding under the high ball, and disrupted Wales with threatening kick returns just as he did a fortnight ago in Rome. Partnering Steward in the back-three, we have gone for Elliot Daly and Tommy Freeman to retain their places on the wings, permitting that the two flyers are fit and eligible for selection. Daly has been an unexpected gem of the England wingers, as with so much pre-tournament attention on the likes of Tom Roebuck, Tommy Freeman and Manny Feyi-Waboso, Daly flew under the radar with England fans regarding him as a ‘safe’ selection from Borthwick.
Daly has been anything but safe for his opposition, and provided an excellent assist for Fraser Dingwall’s try against Wales. We expect to see Freeman retain the 14 jersey for the trip to Edinburgh, as he has established himself as the top young gun of the new-coming backs. Returning to the England squad following a year and a half out of the fold, the Northampton Saints man has been brilliant upon his comeback, and lit up both the Stadio Olimpico and Twickenham with his exciting engine and after-burning strides.
On the bench, we have selected Tom Roebuck ahead of Immanuel Feyi-Waboso for the 23 jersey. Feyi-Waboso was unused against Wales and only accrued three minutes on the pitch against Italy a week prior. Of course, we are unaware as to how Borthwick views Roebuck in the back-three pecking order, but he could well award the Inverness-born wing his test match debut. After Borthwick beat Townsend to Roebuck’s signiture, England fans would love to see the Sale wing make his test debut against Scotland and begin his England career at the home of Scottish rugby.
13. Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks)
The first predicted changes to come into Borthwick’s plans, following back-to-back weeks of identical starting XV’s, is the expected return of Manu Tuilagi. Borthwick has continued to provide medical updates on Tuilagi’s status throughout his recent press conference events, with the latest news coming in the post-match discussion after the win against Wales. “Hopefully, Manu Tuilagi isn’t too far away, as in, in contention for the next selection.” Borthwick said at Twickenham on Saturday.
A return for Tuilagi would likely see the Sale man back in the starting line-up, and we predict to see new-coming centre Fraser Dingwall dropped out of the side. Tuilagi has proven his versatility across both centre spots, and could form a tried and tested midfield partnership with Henry Slade at outside centre for the battle with Scotland. Slade has been in impressive form since returning to the England squad, with a renewed focus on his kicking game paying dividends for Steve Borthwick’s team. We expect to see the Exeter man retain his spot in the starting XV, and bring the fight to his Chiefs teammate and former England international Alec Hepburn, when the two sides meet up in Edinburgh.
The decision is a tough one for Dingwall, as the Northampton man has had a solid start to his England career. However, there have been some teething issues for the 24-year-old, with inexperience playing a potential factor on the test match stage. Despite scoring a nice try in the corner against Wales, high profile missed tackles against the likes of Monty Ioane and George North have asked questions of the Saints centre defensively. Tuilagi’s proven option as a match-winning powerhouse would give any side a lift ahead of round three, and hands the advantage to the Samoan-born centre should he be declared fit for selection.