10. George Ford (Sale Sharks)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
For the first time in recent memory, there is a rather straight-forward decision to make, as to who should start for England at fly half. The all-consuming saga of Owen Farrell, George Ford, Marcus and Fin Smith has simmered down now to just Ford and Fin, with the Sale man emerging as the best viable option to lead the back-line against Scotland.
Ford notched two impressive performances under his test match belt, as he steered England to victory against Italy and Wales, and kicked excellently in both matches. Putting one confusion conversion debacle to the side, Ford’s fleet-footedness won the match against Wales, be it from a well struck penalty or an exquisite 50-22. With Marcus Smith still recovering from his calf injury and not expected to return until the final two rounds of the tournament, Ford’s understudy continues to be Fin Smith.
We expect the Northampton man to take a seat on the bench, and would not be suprised if he is sparingly used against Scotland. The upcoming battle against Townsend’s tartan will be as impassioned and fierce as they come. Ford’s calming demeanour will be vital for England to overcome the emotional obstacles in a jam-packed Murrayfield, for England first Calcutta Cup win for four years.
We expect to see Alex Mitchell continue on as England’s first choice scrum-half, with the Northampton halfback producing two impressive outings against both Italy and Wales. Quick ball, savvy chips and a try against the Azzurri, Mitchell has been ticking all the right box kicks to keep the starting spot over Danny Care. Mitchell and Ford have formed a solid partnership at first receiver, and we predict Borthwick to stick with what’s been working for his 9-10 axis.
1. Joe Marler (Harlequins)
2. Jamie George (Saracens)
3. Will Stuart (Bath Rugby)
Once again, should injuries not play a factor in the selection for Scotland, we expect Borthwick to go with the reliable mantra of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ The front row trio of Joe Marler, Jamie George and Will Stuart worked well as a cohesive unit, when setting the tone against Italy and Wales. With two victories runs as England captain under his belt, Jamie George is going nowhere other than the starting hooker spot, yet we predict to see an alteration to the replacements behind him.
In the same press conference which Borthwick confirmed Tuilagi’s predicted England return (post Wales win last Saturday), the head coach also discussed the possibility of Luke Cowan-Dickie recovering from injury. “Hopefully Luke Cowan-Dickie comes into that, for selection as well, for the next squad. But as I say, all that will be confirmed when I received medical report tomorrow (Sunday). Might be different to that. But that’s where I’m aiming towards right now.” We’ve put the Sale man on the bench ahead of Theo Dan, in the hopes of Cowan-Dickie earning his first England cap since the 2022 Autumn Internationals.
As for the prop replacements, we predict to see the trademarked ‘Borth Squad’, back on the bench. Ellis Genge and Dan Cole have been doing an excellent job in lifting the tempo up-front, following a 50th minute introduction to the match. Genge and Cole dominated the young Welsh props last Saturday, and gave debuting tight-head Archie Griffin a baptism of fire to the test match circuit. More of the same would be hoped for against Scotland, as a strong blend of experience and fresh legs could be utilised in the latter stages at Murrayfield.