Scotland A v England Saxons, Galashiels
Saxons look to add to winning run
February 2, 2012
The England Saxons shone against the Wolfhounds last weekend © Getty Images
Scotland A host the England Saxons at Galashiels on Friday evening as they look to stop their recent run of wretched form against their English counterparts.
Scotland's second side have only beaten the Saxons twice in the past - back in 1998 and more recently in the 2006 Churchill Cup - while Jon Callard's men are still riding the wave of optimism after their 23-17 win over the Irish Wolfhounds last Saturday. Tries from Ben Spencer and Thomas Waldrom was enough to see off the threat of Eric Elwood's men but it is all change for the Saxons with Callard feeling the ramifications of both injuries and the transition of players into the senior side.
But within the Scotland side there are six capped players with skipper Rory Lawson at the forefront of those perhaps feeling aggrieved at not having made the squad for the Calcutta Cup clash on Saturday. While the match will be in the shadow of the main event at Murrayfield, the Saxons in particular will take note of the likes of Chris Robshaw who were playing for the second-string last year and now takes his place on the main stage come 1700 on Saturday.
Scotland A - Player to Watch: Tight-head Ed Kalman earned a call up to the senior Scotland side with Moray Low sidelined, but failed to make the cut when it came to selecting a side for the Calcutta Cup. But Kalman has impressed for Glasgow this season and will hope to transfer that form onto the international stage.
Scotland A - Team News: Stuart Hogg gets the nod at fullback with Tom Brown and Simon Danielli on the wings. Tom Brown and Alex Grove get the nod in the centres while Duncan Weir and Rory Lawson start at half-back. Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall and Ed Kalman form an all-Glasgow front-row with Rob Harley and Tom Ryder bringing the grunt in the second-row. Stuart McInally, Chris Fusaro and Richie Vernon form the back-row.
England Saxons - Player to Watch: Nick Abendanon gets the nod at fullback in place of the under-fire Delon Armitage. Abendanon has signed a new three-year deal with Bath this week and will hope to shine for the Saxons with Mike Brown and Ben Foden in front of him in the pecking order for England.
England Saxons - Team News: England have rung the changes from the side which dispatched the Wolfhounds. Nick Abendanon fills in for Delon Armitage at fullback - following the London Irish back's brush with the law - while Ugo Monye and Jonny May fill in on the wings. Dom Waldouck starts at outside centre with Billy Twelvetrees filling in at inside centre. Ryan Lamb and Ben Spencer take the half-back reins. In the front-row, Nick Wood, Chris Brooker and Paul Doran-Jones get the nod while Ed Slater and George Robson start in the second-row. James Gaskell - who captains the side - starts at blindside with Andy Saull and Tom Johnson completing the line up.
Key Battle: The battle of the scrum-halves should be fascinating. Rory Lawson led Scotland to Calcutta Cup glory six years ago while the Saxons' Ben Spencer has only appeared on the domestic scene for Saracens this season. It is very much experience against youth, but both are playing some impressive rugby in the Premiership and will hope to put their side on the front foot come Friday.
Trivia: Six members of Scotland's squad have international caps: Rory Lawson, Phil Godman, Simon Danielli, Alex Grove, Dougie Hall and Richie Vernon.
Stats: Of the squad which took to the field in the Churchill Cup final for the Saxons, only five remain to face Scotland A on Friday: Billy Twelvetrees, Miles Benjamin, James Gaskell, Tom Johnson and Joe Gray.
"Up front, meanwhile, we have a core of guys who have been performing well as a unit for Glasgow Warriors, aided and abetted by a couple of back row players, Stuart McInally and Richie Vernon, who will bring quality and endeavour to the table."
"We always planned to make changes over the course of these two games and it means there are more chances for those who've been playing well in the Aviva Premiership and in Europe this season. As we saw last week, Thomas Waldrom and Matt Banahan stepped back up to train with the senior squad after 80 minutes for the Saxons so the potential opportunities for this group are very clear."
Prediction: The Saxons are in a rich vein of form at the moment and will add another win to their run with a narrow victory over the Scotland A's.
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