Scotland v England Preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups and stats for the Six Nations clash
Scotland host England in Six Nations opener on Saturday: 16:50 kick-off
Vern Cotter will look to build upon their impressive Rugby World Cup campaign
The Dark Blues have lost six back-to-back Six Nations matches on home turf
England’s record in the past five RBS 6 Nations tournaments has been identical with four wins and a defeat each season
Eddie Jones’ Era officially begins on Saturday with a bang as England travel north to take on Scotland in their 2016 Six Nations opener.
The Australian takes his side to Murrayfield to face a revitalised Scotland, knowing that defeat would stick a pin in his Six Nations ambitions before the tournament has even had a chance to get started.
Martin Johnson, Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson all notably failed to notch victories against the Scots at Murrayfield as England head coaches.
Scotland suffered a whitewash in last year’s Six Nations but came within a controversial refereeing decision of making the last four in the World Cup, losing their Twickenham quarterfinal against Australia 34-35 after Bernard Foley’s late penalty kick for the Wallabies.
Now only one place separates the pair in the world rankings with Jones’ England sitting one place above their noisy neighbours in eighth.
The forecast for the oldest rivalry in international history is to be a largely dry affair – although there could be some rain in the second half. Temperatures are unlikely to climb above 5C, but Murrayfield should not be turned into a mudbath.
Cotter has named an impressive Scotland line-up for their Six Nations opener
John Barclay returns for the Dark Blues men after he did not make last year’s World Cup squad. The flanker has been absent for the past three Six Nations campaigns but will now win his 46th cap alongside John Hardie and Dave Denton in the hosts back-row.
Glasgow centre Mark Bennett will also be in the starting line-up, having recovered from a shoulder injury.
“There’s a huge amount of excitement and determination among the group to start well, and do well, in this Championship, and show that they have learned from past experiences and developed their game,” said Scotland head coach Cotter.
“Playing in front of a sold-out BT Murrayfield Stadium is hugely motivating for the players, who are all very proud to wear the jersey as we know. They like working hard for each other in the no-excuse environment that exists in the squad.
“England will look to build their game from set-phase dominance, while we expect them to have developed their attacking play into the wider channels, which can create challenges as well as opportunities.
“We’re expecting them to be extremely motivated and physical, and we’re looking forward to that challenge. Continuity and accuracy will be key for us in this game.”
Meanwhile, Jones has selected Quins duo Danny Care at scrum-half and Joe Marler at loosehead prop for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday.
Care is preferred to Leicester’s Ben Youngs, while Marler gets in ahead of Saracens Mako Vunipola.
Back rower Jack Clifford, prop Paul Hill and centre Ollie Devoto are set to make their international debuts off the bench at Murrayfield.
Lock Courtney Lawes is included among the replacements after passing a fitness test on his hamstring injury.
Jones said: “There were some tight calls on selection, but we have picked a match-day squad with a blend of experience and youth.
“The boys have worked hard since coming into camp to understand how I want the team to play going forward. We have prepared well and I am pleased with the progress the group has made in the short time we’ve had together.
Scotland have suffered six straight home games in the Six Nations, which is their worst ever ru
Murrayfield is the largest stadium in Scotland and the sixth largest in the UK, behind Wembley, Twickenham, Old Trafford and the Millennium Stadium.
Only one place separates the nations in the world rankings; England (8th), Scotland (9th)
In 1871, the first ever rugby international, contested by Scotland and England, ended with a win for the Scots
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Scotland: Finn Russell
There is something about Russell that makes him a fine player to watch. The 23-year-old was at the centre of Scotland’s vibrancy and swagger at the Rugby World Cup with his all-around kicking, ability to ghost past defenders and willingness to work hard at the breakdown making him vital to Vern Cotter’s plans during the Six Nations. When he is strutting, the Dark Blues can do anything.
England: Joe Launchbury
The Wasps’ man may have been embarrassed to have been given the man of the match award in England’s crushing Rugby World Cup defeat to Australia, but the highly rated back-rower has been magnificent since, especially in the Champions Cup. The 24-year-old, who was tipped to captain England, still has to in reality prove himself at Test level but will likely knock the ball out of the park and become a stalwart in the national side. His tackling, his ability to win the lineout and intensity at the breakdown will give Eddie Jones the sort of relentless second-row the red rose army have needed for years.
2015: England won 25-13 at Twickenham
2014: England won 20-0 at Murrayfield
2013: England won 38-18 at Twickenham
2012: England won 13-6 at Murrayfield
2011: England won 16-12 at Eden Park
2011: England won 22-16 at Twickenham
2010: 15-15 draw at Murrayfield
2009: England won 26-12 at Twickenham
2008: Scotland won 15-9 at Murrayfield
2007: England won 42-20 at Twickenham
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Duncan Taylor.
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Alex Goode, 23 Ollie Devoto
Date: Saturday, February 6
Kick-off: 16:50 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)