After a disappointing and frankly bizarre match against Italy, England coach Eddie Jones may look to make changes to his team to face a resurgent and impressive Scotland outfit.
With England’s inability to deal with the Azzurri’s ‘non-engagement’ ploy, the first half was disjointed in terms of attacking play, but at the same time the men in white were dominated at the scrum and a number of players made uncharacteristic errors.
Whilst the performances did improve for many in the second half, the coaching team should look to change their starting line up to face the Scots at Twickenham in two weeks’ time – particularly with the contributions the so-called ‘finishers’ made.
1) Mako Vunipola
Marler had a slow start to the Italy match but did improve in the second half. However, Vunipola added power to England’s scrum and is world class in what he brings to the loose.
2) Jamie George
Whilst Dylan Hartley is an inspirational leader according to coach Jones, his performances on the field have been disappointing for a while now. When Saracens’ George comes off the bench he brings a consistency and a clinical edge that is missing from many aspects of Hartley’s game. He should start this time.
3) Dan Cole
Like Marler, Cole had a poor start to the game against Italy, but his scrummaging improved tremendously in the second half, as well as his carrying. Sinckler’s time will come, but for now Cole remains the best anchor England have at scrum time.
4) Joe Launchbury (vc)
Launchbury kept his head when all around him his team mates were losing theirs. If he maintains this form then he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet for his country, and arguably a future captaincy contender. Here he is named as a vice captain.
5) Courtney Lawes
Like Launchbury, Lawes had an excellent game and was involved in everything good about England’s second half. The Launchbury/Lawes partnership is the country’s standout lock pairing right now.
6) Maro Itoje
His turnovers and his awareness kept England in the game in the first half and he grew in stature in the second. How someone so young can be one of the wisest players on any pitch is baffling, but Itoje has now adapted well to his blindside position.
7) James Haskell
Haskell’s abrasive physicality has been sorely missed in recent times, but now the Wasps back rower is back fully fit he should continue to start ahead of both Wood and Clifford, neither of whom has done anything to suggest they deserve the seven jersey ahead of Haskell.
8) Nathan Hughes
Hughes had a poor game against Italy, but with Billy Vunipola still out injured and with only Ben Morgan and the uncapped Josh Beaumont as realistic options to replace him, Hughes will almost certainly start again against the Scots.
9) Ben Youngs
Italy totally caught Care off-guard with their tactics at the weekend, and the Harlequins scrum half only had a short period in the game when he finally had a chance to show what he can bring to England’s attack. However, when Youngs came on he added a calm head to the proceedings and is the sort of player the men in white will need to take on a resurgent Scotland in what is sure to be a fiery Calcutta Cup encounter. His box kicking in particular will be crucial.
10) Owen Farrell (c)
Farrell was certainly not at his best on Sunday, but then neither was fly-half George Ford. Embarrassingly, the latter was wiped out in defence as Italy’s Campagnaro rampaged towards a brilliant score for the visitors. Farrell deserves a shot at ten, particularly given the way Ben Te’o has been playing in the centres, and his physicality and tenacity will be much needed.
11) Elliot Daly
It seems eons ago when Daly was being criticised for his naive red card against Argentina last autumn, what with the Wasps centre showing his dazzling handling skills, pace and footwork in recent games for his country. He has made the move to wing look easy in the last few matches and has been one of England’s most consistent players.
12) Ben Te’o
Given he’s a league convert, Te’o looked to be one of the most naturally gifted union players on show last weekend. His offloading skills were a particular highlight and he should continue to start for his country.
13) Jonathan Joseph
Surprisingly dropped for the Italian fixture, Joseph is the lynchpin of England’s defence and when in top form is an outstanding attacking talent. With Farrell and Te’o providing the bludgeon, Joseph could prove to be the much-needed rapier.
14) Jack Nowell
In form and one of the central reasons for England’s improved performance in the second half against the Azzurri, Nowell has to start. He took his second try exceptionally well and is the pick of England’s out-and-out wingers.
15) Mike Brown (vc)
Brown is not without his critics, but there is no denying the Harlequins man is a rock at the back and an experienced head England will need to take on a scintillating Scottish back three.
Bench: Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Tom Wood, Jack Clifford, Danny Care, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena