Scots target fresh-faced England
February 2, 2012
Will new England boss Stuart Lancaster have reason to smile at Murrayfield on Saturday? © Getty Images
England's new-look side face a baptism of fire against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday with both sides keen to move on from a disappointing Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Scots quest for World Cup glory in New Zealand was ended by the auld enemy in the pool stages but England fell at the next hurdle and as a result their opening clash in this year's Six Nations represents an opportunity for both sides to right those wrongs.
The four months since that Auckland clash has seen English rugby undergo a radical overhaul from top to bottom with Rugby Football Union ushering in a new era with Stuart Lancaster taking charge of the national side albeit on an interim basis. News faces have also been injected into the squad ahead of their Six Nations defence in the hope of generating the right kind of headlines and not those that plagued their World Cup assault.
In contrast, the Scots have opted not to wield the axe despite failing to reach the knock out stages of the sport's showpiece event for the first time. Andy Robinson remains at the helm, reportedly seething from what he saw as England's arrogance during the World Cup, and the limits of his player pool mean much of the squad sent packing in New Zealand have been given a shot at redemption.
Scotland - Player to Watch: Lock Richie Gray lit up last year's Six Nations with a string of outstanding performances - can he rediscover his best form when it matters most?
Scotland - Team News: The Scotland side shows eight changes from the defeat to England in Auckland. Uncapped winger Lee Jones is joined in being promoted to the starting line-up by lock Jim Hamilton, flanker Ross Rennie, No.8 David Denton, scrum-half Chris Cusiter, fly-half Dan Parks, centre Nick De Luca and fullback Rory Lamont. Hooker Ross Ford is to captain the side, with injuries denying coach Andy Robinson the services of flanker Kelly Brown and fly-half Ruaridh Jackson.
England - Player to Watch: Chris Robshaw's Test match experience currently totals 53 minutes with the cauldron that is Murrayfield on a Six Nations matchday sure to prove a physical and mental challenge for England's new captain.
England - Team News: The England team features 10 changes from the side that beat Scotland in the World Cup with three new caps in the starting team - centres Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell and No.8 Phil Dowson. Elsewhere, Charlie Hodgson and Ben Youngs form a new-look halfback pairing while Mouritz Botha makes his first start at lock. Up front, Robshaw skipper from openside flanker, Tom Croft starts at blindside and Dylan Hartley gets the nod at hooker. There are 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).
Key Battle: The most important battle looks like it will be played in the heads of the players with a much more experienced Scotland side looking to hand their relatively fresh-faced rivals a lesson. Can the Scots make that advantage pay or will a new-look England prove quick learners?
Trivia: Only four less experienced players than Chris Robsaw have captained England - Fred Stokes (1871), Fred Alderson (1891), Joe Mycock (1947) and Nigel Melville (1984)
Stats: England's starting line-up boasts just 236 Test caps, including Lions appearances, compared to Scotland's 501.
"I thought a number of England players undermined this in the arrogance they showed."
"Going up there, especially at this point in time, given where we have been, the unspeakable past, they will be licking their lips."
Prediction: An inexperienced and untried England side are up against and a lot will depend on how they gel and handle the atmosphere. They look ripe for the taking by a more settled Scotland side intent on settling an old score and who look set for a narrow victory.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter