By Eve McTiernan
So, today is the day: we are in the final countdown to not only game day but one of, if not the best, sporting tournament starting.
England’s head coach, Eddie Jones was first to reveal his team to challenge Gregor Townsend’s Scotland for the coveted Calcutta Cup. Two days ago, he announced his match day 23 with Flanker Tom Curry as captain. Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, prop Ellis Genge and inside centre Henry Slade have all been named as Vice Captains.
Jones will be relieved to have both Joe Marchant, who starts on the wing and Joe Marler, who has been named as ‘finisher’ back from their brief absence in camp due to both testing positive for Covid-19.
Young Harlequins flyhalf, Marcus Smith is given another crack at 10 ahead of George Ford, after some standout performances for his club.
Gregor Townsend announced his team shortly after Jones, with fullback Stuart Hogg leading the team and flanker Jamie Ritchie and flyhalf Finn Russell as his vice captains. Townsend welcomes Jonny Gray back into the fold after injury starting him in the second row alongside Grant Gilchrist. The front row is made up of Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson as props with George Turner pulling on the hooker jersey.
The back row sees both sides of the M8 come together with Edinburgh’s Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Glasgow Warriors’ Matt Fagerson teaming up once again. Dynamic duo Ali Price and Finn Russell are reunited as the halfbacks with Worcester Warriors’ Duhan Van der Merwe and his former Edinburgh teammate Darcy Graham on the wings. Glasgow’s Sam Johnson just beats teammate Sione Tuipulotu to the inside centre jersey and Townsend favourite Chris Harris takes his place as outside centre.
Townsend has gone for a 5/3 split on the bench with Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel and young gun Magnus Bradbury taking a seat on the bench. Exeter chief and soon to be Edinburgh lock Sam Skinner makes up the substitute forwards. London Irish’s Ben White makes it onto the bench alongside Edinburgh’s Blair Kinghorn and Glasgow’s unstoppable Sione Tuipulotu.
Some interesting choices from Townsend. Personally, I was expecting breakthrough hooker Ewan Ashman to be on the bench ahead of McInally and where is boy wonder Cameron Redpath? His return to the thistle has been hotly anticipated and after his last appearance against England and recent form for Bath, many thought he was guaranteed a jersey. Overall, it is a strong Scottish side more than capable of retaining the Calcutta Cup once again!
With two young, talented and unpredictable Flyhalves on both teams, this certainly will be an exciting game! Come on Scotland!
England team: Steward; Malins, Daly, Slade, Marchant; Smith, Youngs; Genge, Cowan-Dickie, Sinckler, Itoje, Isiekwe, Ludlam, Curry (c), Simmonds.
Replacements: George, Marler, Stuart, Ewels, Dombrandt, Randall, Ford, Nowell.
Scotland team: Hogg (c), Graham, Harris, Johnson, Van Der Merwe, Russell (VC), Price, Sutherland, Turner, Z. Fagerson, Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie (VC), Watson, M. Fagerson.
Replacements: McInally, Schoeman, Nel, Skinner, Bradbury, White, Kinghorn, Tuipulotu.