New-look England set to face Scotland
February 2, 2012
Saracens youngster Owen Farrell will link up with club-mate Brad Barritt in the England midfield © Getty Images
England have named three new caps in the starting team to face Scotland in Saturday's Six Nations opener at Murrayfield.
Saracens' Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell will form a new centre pairing at international level, while Northampton Saints' Phil Dowson makes his debut at No 8 at the age of 30. The match 22 sees five more uncapped players named on the replacements' bench - Rob Webber (London Wasps), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Ben Morgan (Scarlets), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints) and Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins).
Stuart Lancaster's starting line-up boasts just 236 Test caps, including Lions appearances, compared to Scotland's 501. The Scottish pack alone has more international experience than England. Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson is the most experienced player in the England line-up with 36 caps, but he will be making his first Test start in four years.
Seven of England's starting XV go into the game with 10 caps or fewer, while Chris Robshaw will captain England in only his second Test appearance. Saracens lock Mouritz Botha will be making his first international start following a debut off the bench last August.
Lancaster has urged his new-look side to make the most of their opportunity. "We have been impressed with how the whole group has come together in the last 10 days and we have done a lot of work on and off the field. Now is the time to turn all that into a performance against Scotland that we can all be proud of. It is a massive challenge - Murrayfield, the first game of the Six Nations - but one we are relishing."
The England team features 10 changes from the side that beat Scotland in the World Cup last October and nine from the quarter-final defeat to France.
Jonny Wilkinson, Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody have retired, while England are without the injured trio of Toby Flood, Courtney Lawes and Manu Tuilagi. England boast four Saracens players in the back division, with David Strettle joining Farrell, Barritt and Hodgson after being preferred to Gloucester's Charlie Sharples.
Farrell has been listed at inside centre with Barritt at outside centre, opposite to the way they line up for Saracens although they are expected to interchange positions. The last time England fielded two debutant centres was in 2002, when Geoff Appleford and Ben Johnston played in a 26-18 win against Argentina in Buenos Aires. Before that, it was 1969 when David Duckham and John Spencer linked up on debut against Ireland in a 19-17 defeat at Lansdowne Road.
Ben Foden, one of four Northampton players, continues at fullback with Saracens-bound Chris Ashton on the right wing and Ben Youngs at scrum-half. Up front, Robshaw captains from openside flanker, Tom Croft starts at blindside and Dowson gets his long-awaited Test debut.
Botha will pack down with Tom Palmer in the second row and hooker Dylan Hartley will be propped by Alex Corbisiero on the loose-head and Dan Cole at tight-head. Saracens prop Matt Stevens will cover both sides while Harlequins fullback Mike Brown has been rewarded for his form with a place on the bench, his first England selection since 2008.
England: Ben Foden (Northampton Saints); Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Brad Barritt (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), David Strettle (Saracens); Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers); Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Replacements: Rob Webber (London Wasps), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Ben Morgan (Scarlets), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Mike Brown (Harlequins)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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