Calcutta Cup: three changes in Scotland squad for England clash – updated

Jamie Ritchie, Kyle Steyn and Blair Kinghorn all return to starting XV

Jamie Ritchie returns to Scotland's starting XV against England at blindside flanker. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Jamie Ritchie returns to Scotland's starting XV against England at blindside flanker. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GREGOR TOWNSEND has made three changes to his Scotland starting XV ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown versus England. 

Blair Kinghorn returns from a knee injury to take over the full-back jersey and Kyle Steyn – who was a late call-off for the team’s defeat to France two weekends ag because his wife was in labour – returns on the right wing. Kyle Rowe and Harry Paterson drop out of the squad altogether.

Meanwhile, in the pack, former captain Jamie Ritchie is called back into the side at blindside flanker in plece of Matt Fagerson, who also drops out of the squad altogether.


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The remainder of the starting XV and the bench is unchanged from the France match.

“The players have really delivered up-front,” said Townsend, when assessing Scotland’s recent run of wins against England. |Whenever you play England you’re going to be tested in the set-piece and the contact area. The basis of our victories and our really good performances have been through the forwards, and that’s allowed our backs to come into the game. Our preparation has been really good (in the past).

“We really believe in our forwards [for this game], both those starting and those off the bench,” he added. “England always have a big pack, they have a tradition through their age-group rugby and in the Premiership of mauling, of scrums being so important, but we’ve shown against most packs we’ve come up against that we can compete with the guys in the world rugby.”

The coach then explained his thinking behind restoring Ritchie to the starting XV whilst preferring Andy Christie to the discarded Fagerson on the bench.

“For Jamie, he’s really accepted the challenge that was there about a month ago that there’s increased competition in the back-row and for that reason he was no longer going to be captain. But since that conversation he’s played two games for Edinburgh and one for Scotland in Cardiff and he’s played well. We believe this game will suit his strengths and the experience he can bring to the team as well will be a boost,” explained the coach.

“His breakdown ability, particularly defensively [was the key consideration] – he’s one of the best of the world at jackals [and] we’ve got another world-class jackler in Rory Darge.

“England I imagine have gone got two opensides with Ben Earl playing No 8 and Sam Underhill with seven on his back. I believe that the breakdown will be really important.

“Jamie also played really well for Edinburgh last weekend. It wasn’t a great team performance but Jamie was one of the standout players. That’s very encouraging that he’s got on, got two or three jackals, carried well, chased well. He’s been determined to play his best rugby and we’re seeing that increasingly over the last few weeks.

“We thought Andy Christie did really well off the bench and that’s an important role for us, especially in a big fixture like this,” Townsend continued. “We believe he can come off the bench and make a big impact and bring on energy. He covers all three positions too.”

 

 

Townsend was also asked about his decision to retain Ben Healy as specialist stand-off cover on the bench, despite Blair Kinghorn – who has experience of playing that position at international level – returning to the team. That call means there is no room in the match-day 23 for Rowe, who has performed admirably in Scotland’s two games so far in this Six Nations.

“It was more a discussion around having a 6-2 or 5-3 split on the bench,” said Townsend. “We just feel with it being Blair’s first game back from injury – albeit not a long period out – it’s asking a lot for him to come back, play Test match rugby and also run at 10 during the week.

“It was a long discussion, because we believe the contact area will be huge and having another forward on the bench might have helped us. But we back all the forwards we have to perform.”

Having spoken  at length about his frustration at some of the refereeing in both the Wales win and France loss, Townsend opted for a pre-match charm offensive this time round.

‘I think Andrew Brace is one of the best referees in the world,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a game where the referee doesn’t play a big role in this week.”

 

Scotland (versus England at Murrayfield Stadium, Saturday, 4.45pm): B Kinghorn; K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, D van der Merwe; F Russell (c), B White; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, G Gilchrist, S Cummings, J Rirtchie, R Darge, J Dempsey Substitutes: E Ashman, A Hepburn, E Millar-Mills, S Skinner, A Christie, G Horne, B Healy, C Redpath.


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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

58 Comments

  1. Mr Martin with the greatest respect I am well aware what I read and and no mention of Mr Telford. So no confusion here sir just the ex Worcester winger. If you are attending the test tomorrow I wish you a great day , a safe journey and of course a Scots win

    • Mr COWIE Esq,

      I hope you have a good day too sir.

      I’d like to read the article you allude to, can you tell me/us wherebit is?

  2. Gaffer you missed my point. it was not about self betterment indeed i did it myself 50 off years ago. It was about the fact that he decides he wants to play for dear old Scotland then promptly criticises our anthem. May have been in a lot of countries in which anthems i did not like but was courteous enough to keep my own council.

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    • Indeed. I was brought up to believe that when any national anthem is played you stand up, keep still and keep your mouth closed unless you are singing. Maybe old fashioned but I still follow those rules.

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    • REEPOST Sir, I think you’ve got yourself all confused. The article you allude to (I think) is Ruck.co.uk and its actually initially Jim Telfer’s anthem opinion with a wee article on Duhan on page 3.

    • I’m not condoning him criticising our anthem, you have a point there. I was responding to Alan Mann criticising Duhans mercenary credentials.

  3. So Duhan van der Merwe thinks that our anthem is immature and anti English well i find the English anthem rather anti Scots. So do I think David Sole and his team anti english? Not in a million years. So Mr van der Merwe please stick to playing rugby and leave our anthems alone. I do hope that you find our song not to to much of a distraction and I would mention Princess Anne as been known to belt out this song and I would suggest she would not decry her family in anyway. I wish you well on Saturday and I hope that someone passes on my thoughts.

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    • He is South African so why would he have an affinity for the national anthem of his jersey of convenience. He may score epic tries because he is a very fine speciman of the human race but he is still a born and bred South African rugby mercenary which sticks in my craw. Short career etc but has no loyalty despite being offered over 250k a year by the SRU he left Scottish rugby at the very first oportunity to chase the money then came running back with his tail between his legs.

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      • Mercenary he may be but would you rather Scotland be the only nation to field players born and bred in the country? If that were the case we would be playing the tier 2 competition against the likes of Romania and Georgia.
        Typically we applaud men who better themselves by seeking improved salaries and working conditions by moving abroad, Oilmen to Dubai, Lumbermen to Canada, Bankers and IT specialists to America. A sportsman is no different. At club level ( livelihood level) he surely is entitled to go and work where the employer gives him the best deal?, after that if a manager courts a man with the opportunity to play internationally and its within the rules I can’t say I blame him.

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      • So Gaffer I take it you are happy that a fully fledged English international Hepburn is now playing for us because his first country of choice no longer wanted him. It did not matter to him that his dad was Scottish when he happily played for England but it mattered to him now that he was no longer wanted by them.

        He was a team mate of many of the players he will go up against but that is okay with you as its in the rules that were put in place for the Tier 2 nations. We now have a multi capped Australian No8 and now a multi capped English prop playing instead of two Scottish boys Fagerson and Bhatti and we wonder why playing numbers have collapsed in Scotland.

        The facts are we are a tier 2 nation rugby who under Dobson have spent a huge amount of money importing players whilst neglecting our own domestic grassroots as Dobson only cared for the international and pro scene.

        We have sold our soul for success at all costs and this is a Scottish team in name only and do you not remember when Montoya says to Ritchie during a chat with the ref “if he would rather he spoke in Afrikaans”

        Now one of them is taking the mickey out of our anthem but you are all so desperate for success that it doesnt matter. We should just go and recruit the whole junior all blacks or Springboks U20 teams stick them in the pro teams and in 5 years you will have a ready made team.

        I would happily see a Scottish team playing in Tier 2 rugby because that would force us to focus on doing things right and investing in a sustainable future for rugby in Scotland because it is in intensive care.

        We have a crumbling Murrayfield and no more assets to sell off as Dobson has made sure of that and he niow rides of into the sunset with a bulging bank balance and a huge pension pot. But that is ok to people like you because we were up to no5 in the world rankings etc etc.

    • Sir, I think you’ve got yourself all confused. The article you allude to (I think) is Ruck.co.uk and its actually initially Jim Telfer’s anthem opinion with a wee article on Duhan on page 3.

  4. So Duhan van der Merwe thinks that our anthem is immature and anti English well i find the English anthem rather anti Scots. So do I think David Sole and his team anti english? Not in a million years. So Mr van der Merwe please stick to playing rugby and leave our anthems alone. I do hope that you find our song not to to much of a distraction and I would mention Princess Anne as been known to belt out this song and I would suggest she would not decry her family in anyway. I wish you well on Saturday and I hope that someone passes on my thoughts.

  5. classic mismanagement of players by Townsend, who would want to have a coach like him as unless you are one of your chosen ones you dont where you stand from one week to another.Mallinder gone, Dobson going and Townsend needs to go now as the last of the failed triumvirate.

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    • Townsend spoke prior to the French game that Ritchie would be in contention of playing this weekend. I haven’t seen any news to clarify if Matt Fagerson is injured only guessing since he took a bang to his shoulder.

      I hope I’m sure like everyone to see Ritchie being fully focused and strong in all contact come Saturday. Just to see an old fashioned shift of graft and grunt would be a relief from a player who hasn’t been at their best for a good few test matches. Wishing him to take his opportunity and show everyone what he’s all about…

      Scrum and lineout domination is a priority. As long as there is no inaccuracy too with unnecessary jumpers running round then we should be fine!!!

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    • Alan you appear to be a bitter man with an axe to grind about the SRU and the management.
      There is much to dislike about the CEO and his world leading salary and remuneration I wouldn’t try and defend him. However, i would guess his bonuses revolved around the Scotland moving up the rankings or winning something and the Professional teams winning/ doing well in the URC and Europe. On these counts he gets a pass mark, he has tried the Super 6 to bridge the gap between amateur and pro rugby and although this hasn’t been a roaring success it has more support from the other clubs than the other options. Dividing that same money between the 10 teams of the Premiership won’t produce anything better.
      The main conversation was about VDM. Townsend as coach will know full well areas of the team we have no world class options or depth and has to use the rules to fill the void. With the demise of Tommy Seymour and Sean Maitland we are deficient in that area , VDM has not represented the country of his birth so why not take him?
      As for Hepburn, his boat has sailed however, Townsend and the team want to achieve something, that is what Townsend is judged on and small margins may be all it takes in this tournament , clearly he sees bringing Bhatti and Nel on from the bench as a liability in the dying 20.
      As for playing numbers, there is no better recruiting sergeant for youngsters than a winning national team and one with world class individuals such as Duhan so I don’t think you can blame the policy for that.
      I’d blame the club game for failing to modernise and sell the product. Failure to, think about summer rugby. The failure of sports development officers to get playing numbers up in schools, etc.
      There is constant talk about British tennis failure to take advantage of the Andy Murray effect, I could say the same about Scottish rugby and VDM and Russell.

  6. An awful lot of noise for a fairly predictable selection. You can only have 15 players in a team. Kinghorn and Steyn were always going to return when available so well done to Rowe and Paterson for filling in and showing they can perform at this level. The one slightly controversial selection is Ritchie but is the surprise that Fagerson is dropped completely from the 23 or that Christie is on the bench. There has been a lot of hype about Christie but I wonder how many people have seen much of him rather than read about him. He got almost a half against France in that dire 2nd half when he was fairly anonymous (one of many) so has yet to really show what he can do at this level. i would be just as happy if he were selected but he is no proven game changer and so GT has gone for experience. I doubt this one selection will be the difference between winning and losing.

    I think we have the backs to tear England apart if we get it right on the day but England are no pushovers and we will need to be at our best for the full 80.

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    • Agree Ross.

      However pertaining to the Ritchie selection, GTs rationale actually makes sense, it’s entirely feasible to see/hope/expect Ritchie’s jackaling having a part to play tomorrow.
      I reckon Healy an excellent player he’s not shone particularly for Edinburgh more due to slow ball from 9 and lack of a 2nd 5/8 option.

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    • Ross , we are all entitled to our opinions but if your observation is that Christie was anonymous against the French then time you started watching another sport. He was an absolute standout in a sea of total mediocrity and did more in his first 5 minutes on the park that Fagerson did in the entire first half.

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  7. Christie deserves a start and Ritchie is a lucky boy, for he did next to nothing for Scotland in his last outing. One reasonably good game for Edinburgh since doesn’t change that and I would have gone for the red hot form player every time, whereas Townsend relies too much on reputations and favourites. The Saracens lad has so much more oomph about him right now and I don’t know what more he has to do to get the nod – he was great when he came off the bench and took his chance well. Ashman barges his way forwards like a short-striding rhino, but appears incapable of finding his targets consistently and I would have had Johnny Matthews on the bench.

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  8. I don’t like it when we’re favourites and playing a team who’ve won 8 of their last 9 games. I hope I’m wrong but I fear the worst – England to win by 5 points.

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    • Fiji, Samoa, Japan, Argentina x 2, Chile, Wales and Italy. That’s who they have beaten. They beat Samoa by a point, Italy by 3, Wales by 2.

      Scotland would have beaten every single one of those teams as well, it’s not impressive. What is Englands record against the top nations in recent years?

      Beaten by South Africa
      Hammered by Ireland
      Embarrassed by France
      Humbled by Scotland (3 times in a row)

      These are a lot more relevant results than beating a string of tier 2 nations, narrowly on many occasions, after a joke of World Cup draw.

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      • I’d just like to say that thanks to your post I will not be viewing the game from behind the Couch, well not to start with. Fingers crossed and good and valid points.

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      • Very valid points but the problem with England is they are as boring as can be, totally lacking in any imagination and heavily reliant on kick tennis and hefty forwards but they can constantly disrupt the opposition and win on kicks. As much as I would like to you can’t write them off.

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      • I would argue that eght out of nine wins against any opposition is good, and I’d be delighted if Scotland could match it some time soon. It’s also worth pointing out that England’s only loss in that run was to the eventual WC winners, South Africa, by 16-15. The Springboks beat us 18-3 in the same competition. It’s true that Ireland hammered England in last year’s 6N, but they’ve been doing the same to us for years! So I’ll be delighted if Scotland make it 4 wins in a row against the Auld Enemy tomorrow, but personally I very much doubt it.

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  9. Not got too many complaints tbh. Ritchie is a surprise but this team should be more than capable of beating England at Murrayfield. Christie seems to be getting a big write up but he is completely unproven at test level.

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  10. Would have liked to have seen:
    6 Christie
    7 Darge
    8 Dempsey

    20 Bradbury
    21 Watson
    22 Horne
    23 Redpath or Rowe

    Would love to have seen Bradbury/Watson carrying ability coming on after 55/60. People argue Watson hasn’t been at it recently, but I’d say Ritchie been the poorer of the two – Watson at least offers a carrying ability, combined with work at breakdown and solid defence. I feel Ritchie is more of a one-trick pony (breakdown) that often falls foul of the referee. Anyway – hope to be proven wrong on Saturday.

    Healy a wasted space on the bench – won’t come on unless Finn gets injured, in which case you’d rather Kinghorn to 10 and reshuffle the back line.

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    • I don’t really get your point re Healy. I don’t see his making the 23 a waste at all. Finn will one of these days cope a nasty one …the nature of his play and position. Kinghorn is a 15 at club level and Healy a 10. IMO better to replace players with players in their natural position. Also, if Russell is having a bad day with his kicking…and we need the points Id rather see a natural kicker at club level takeover.

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    • A mate of mine who is a Munster fan thinks Edinburgh were absolutely nuts to sign Healy. Doesn’t rate him at all.Let alone at international level. Kinghorn can do a much better job if needed.

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      • Kinghorn at 10 is a bomb scare, nowhere near international standard and most teams have a specialist 10 on the bench to try and control the game. Leave players playing their club positions and Kinghorn needs to show he isn’t just a flat track bully.

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      • What would Munster fans know about what constitutes a quality10?… One of the most boring grinding uninspiring club sides to watch.

  11. Much angst on here regarding the Ritchie selection and the dropping of Rowe Mmm.
    I agree there’s no logic in bringing in Bradbury only to dispose of him, he could be handy in this fixture. Christie
    Played well in his cameo and deserves another go, Ritchie was dropped , did very little for Embra last weekend but goes straight back in ? Kinghorn was always going straight back in if fit, perhaps not fair on Rowe who has performed admirably. Kinghorn is a Finn Russell of a fullback, capable of dropping a high ball one moment then galloping from one end of the pitch to the other for a score. Like Hogg and VDM and players of that ilke, if he gets the ball in open space , there is an audible intake of breath in a stadium ( not captured watching at home on tv) as the opposition literally sh*** themselves. Rowe doesn’t have that.
    It’s the paradox which we have been living through these past 5 years, we have a coach who draws criticism for his selections yet it’s that same coach who has delivered unparalleled success in this fixture and has brought us victories in Wales and France for the first time in years. His record in charge can’t be sniffed at. Sure we have a decent crop of players , the best ‘in a generation’ but it would be disingenuous to say Townsend has the same options as the Ireland manager who gets to pick from 4 provinces ,3 of whom have regular success in the URC and Europe.
    I suppose we just have to trust him.

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  12. Incredibly harsh on Patterson Rowe and Horne….Ritchie over Bradbury and Christie just astonishing and Healy ahead of Thomson makes no sense. McDowell can feel aggrieved too. Turner still staring is incomprehensible even more so Ashman over Matthews. Does GT ever watch matches back?? Any??

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    • Rowe and Paterson aren’t better than Kinghorn or Steyn (or Graham, when fit). They filled in well and have a future with Scotland but are behind better players who are now available. Mcdowall is never getting in that team as it stands either.

      Thomson? You mean Ross Thomson? Give me strength. And tbh it doesn’t matter, if Finn is injured it’s game over – Healy, Thomson and Hastings, none are good enough for test level.

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    • Its all about opinions and I agree with yours. The majority appear not to unless Toonie has 27 log ins here. Now I accept that some comparisons between players are closer than others but how anybody could provide support to the includion of Ritchie over Christie is beyond me.

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  13. Ritchie did win a few turnovers on Saturday, turnover ball is good for Scotland and England were all over the place when Italy managed to get their backs on the ball.
    As stated above Kinghorn simply isn’t a 10. Healg had to be on the bench, tough for Rowe but…..
    Hooker is the position that troubles me most.
    However you have to agree with Jonathan Davies re the game and that Scotland should have nothing to worry about, however it’s the hope that kills you

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    • I watched The Good, the Bad & the Rugby preview of the Calcutta Cup last night, on YouTube, and they discussed England’s defensive plan in some detail and why it didn’t work at times against Italy. Hopefully it won’t work on Saturday either.

      They also had quite an entertaining chat with Gary Armstrong and Craig Chalmers last week.

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  14. The most surprising inclusion for me is Ritchie. He has certainly played well for Scotland in the past ….but not for a long while and he didn’t show a turn around in form for Edinburgh last match. At least he isn’t a captain…so hopefully he doesnt talk to the ref at all.
    GT is very contradictory in his selection criteria.
    Is GT admitting that Kinghorn cannot be trusted at 10 after all his attempts to make him one? (Which would be correct as Kinghorn is a terrible 10)…..otherwise why Healy?
    Players dropped that were playing very well…players included who are clearly off form..players playing well at club level not given a chance.
    I can see a loss in this one….and surely that would be tatties for GT as HC.

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  15. Absolutely get that lineout is key. Ritchie is a good lineout option but I had thoight that Christie, who I know considerably less about, was also a lineout jumper? Further to the importance of the lineout suspect that we have 3 or maybe even 4 hookers to look at but would think selection should be heavily weighted by their throwing ability and consistency if other skills sets, scrummaging and carries, are comparable.

    • Christie was very good at the front of the lineout for Saracens in his last match out for them before the 6N started so we’d lose nothing in that aspect without Ritchie.and he certainly carries far better than Ritchie.Disappointing choice so Jamie better have an absolute blinder!

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  16. Baffled by Toony’s insistence on not picking form players. If we get beat this weekend it has to be the end for him. We can’t go on with this madness spiral of picking players based upon historical performance.

    I thought Rowe was excellent and added to the team. Christie for me was a breath of fresh air in the back row. And still no Johnny Matthews. That has to be wondering if its a water into wine scenario for him to get a game. The lad is scoring tries for fun…

    The here and now is what matters and no amount of training ground skirmishes will tell you that.

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      • Kinghorn is an outstanding player. Now playing for a top French side. Highly rated by every single Edinburgh coach and Scotland. How many of our players play in France? Just the very best.

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  17. What to make of that set of selections?. Ritchie honestly, he won 4 turnovers at the weekend against Zebre who Edinburgh just managed to beat, he is in a poor run of form he annoys the ref constantly but back he comes. Kinghorn OK if he stays fit, but Paterson and Rowe just dropped?. It’s like he has favourite pairs Ashman & Turner , White & Finn and no one else will do. I would be tempted to put Rowe or McDowall on the bench instead of Healy giving us a Redpath/McDowall pairing at centers for the last 20 or so. He also has to use the subs way before the 75th minute.

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  18. Agree with previous comment. Healy only gets on if Finn is injured, which Kinghorn is able to cover anyway. Previous game showed he has limited faith in Millar-Mills yet picks him ahead of tried and trusted Nel. Very odd bench selections

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  19. Dont get the Ben Healy inclusion, Kinghorn is a better all round player and surely offers auxiliary fly half cover. This means instead of Healy you put Kyle Rowe as back 3 cover on the bench who has been excellent so far. Also for me this was a game for Andy Christie to start at 6, he plays amongst these English boys and is in great form. Ritchie has been given a lifeline here as his form has been completely indifferent of late, hope he breaks off the shackles and bounces back with a huge performance this weekend! 🏴󠁧󠁢

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    • Honestly can’t believe Rowe has just been totally dropped, so gutted for him. He must surely be a bit confused considering he’s played very well and this is his reward. If Healy doesn’t come off the bench this game (which we likely won’t) then it’s a total waste.

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      • Kinghorn was goalkicking well for Toulouse three weeks ago so no great worries on that score.Rowe for Healy would have been much better.

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      • @Ardent

        where did you get that from? Kinghorn has played 6 games for Toulouse and kicked one penalty. One. They don’t use him as a regular goal kicker, so far just a very occasional one when game won

    • Agree regarding Healy and Ritchie the latter being given the life line as you say, is this the fixture to do it, not sure, unless GT and the Coaches are seeing something we haven’t seen in recent appearances. Why would you take Russell off unless he gets an injury? Oh hang on if we are 50 points up in the last 10 minutes I suppose GT would give Healy a run out.

      • Lineout. Englands biggest strength with Itoje back on song. Jamie gives us better lineout balance where I think the game could be won or lost.

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      • Iain, isn’t Christie a line-out option as well? Plus he is more of a threat with ball in hand than JR.

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