GREGOR TOWNSEND has stuck with the same starting fifteen as defeated France last time out for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against England at BT Murrayfield.
There are three changes on the bench, with tight-head prop WP Nel coming straight back into the squad in place of Jon Welsh after recovering from a broken arm suffered last November, lock Tim Swinson also returning from injury to take over from Ben Toolis, and centre Nick Grigg rewarded for his recent fine form with Glasgow Warriors – including a man-of-the-match performance against the Cheetahs last Friday – with a call-up at the expense of Chris Harries.
Keeping the faith in Russell
Stand-off Finn Russell has had a tough start to this Six Nations campaign, with two slip-shod performances against Wales and France leading to suggestions that the 25-year-old’s position in the side could be in doubt for the first time since be broke into the team in the summer of 2014 – but Townsend’s faith in his protege is unwavering.
“There was no doubt that he would start. He played well a lot in the France game. He had a couple of kicking errors, but a lot of the positive play we had in both halves – Finn was a part of that. He is our attack leader and an outstanding stand-off,” insisted the coach.
“He is very competitive and determined to work on areas he needs to work on. He will be a key player for us.”
“It’s what we see from what he’s done in training, and in the past, and what he’s done in our games this season. People are quick to look at one error or one part of his game, but there are lot of things that are working well. He is putting huge effort into playing well this weekend.”
The England challenge
Townsend added that the team recognise the magnitude of the challenge they face on Saturday, but says the players believe they have nothing to fear after recovering from an opening day disaster against Wales to find a way to win against France last time out.
“The players put a huge amount of effort into our win over France. They found a way to win and kept attacking the opposition up until the final whistle,” said Townsend “England are the number two side in the world and have shown a very good level of consistency in the past couple of seasons. This is due to the quality of their playing and coaching staff, who have done a tremendous job.”
“They have a very good defence, an excellent set-piece and like to get 10 and 12 on the ball as much as possible in attack. Taking on England is going to be a huge challenge and we are well aware that only our very best will be good enough in this fixture.
“We have to play better. We know that England are a bigger challenge than France. They are in great form and we will not find as many opportunities but we have to look for them anyway. We have to defend better. We have to put more effort into the whole game.”
Scotland team (to play England at BT Murrayfield on Saturday 24th February: kick-off 4.45pm) –
15. Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors) – 57 caps
14. Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) – 41 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
12. Pete Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps
11. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 31 caps
10. Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors) – 34 caps
9. Greig Laidlaw VICE CAPTAIN (ASM Clermont Auvergne) – 60 caps
1. Gordon Reid (London Irish) – 29 caps
2. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) – 14 caps
3. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh Rugby) – 6 caps
4. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – 20 caps
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors) – 40 caps
6. John Barclay CAPTAIN (Scarlets) – 68 caps
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby) – 17 caps
8. Ryan Wilson VICE CAPTAIN (Glasgow Warriors) – 34 caps
16. Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons) – 47 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) – 5 caps
18. Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) – 19 caps
19. Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) – 33 caps
20. David Denton (Worcester Warriors) – 36 caps
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) – 13 caps
22. Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) – 1 cap
23. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) – uncapped