Scotland v England: Gregor Townsend names team for Six Nations opener

Rory Sutherland is handed the No 1 jersey for Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield

Rory Sutherland returns at loose-head prop ahead of Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash against England. Image: Craig Watson -
Rory Sutherland returns at loose-head prop ahead of Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash against England. Image: Craig Watson -

GREGOR TOWNSEND has generally gone for the tried and tested with his team selection for Saturday’s Six Nations opener against England at Murrayfield. 

He has opted with 2021 Lion tourist Rory Sutherland ahead of Pierre Schoeman at loose-head prop despite a lack of recent game time due to a combination of injury and suspension. Grant Gilchrist is named alongside Jonny Gray in the second-row with Scott Cummings not involved. Matt Fagerson gets the nod ahead of Magnus Bradbury – who is on the bench – at No 8.

He has named the same starting backline as he sent out against Japan at the end of the Autumn and against France at the end of the last Six Nations. London Irish scrum-half Ben White is in line for a debut off the bench, Blair Kinghorn is covering stand-off and back-three, and Sione Tuipulotu rather than Cam Redpath is the other back replacement, with the head coach having gone with a five-three split on the bench.

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“We feel privileged to be involved in the oldest international rugby fixture on Saturday, against our nearest rivals,” said Townsend. “We are aware of how much winning at Twickenham boosted the spirits of our supporters at the start of last year’s tournament, and we’re looking forward to playing in front of them in person this year.

“We are under no illusions on the tough challenge we have ahead of us against an England side who defeated the World Champions in their last outing.

“The starting 15 we have named has a consistent feel to it which is great for cohesion but we will also benefit from returning players such as Jonny Gray and Rory Sutherland who have been important players for us in recent seasons.

“Ben White has been in very good form for London Irish and has trained well in the last two weeks, so can approach his first involvement at Test level with real confidence.”


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Meanwhile, Eddie Jones has made 23-year-old flanker Tom Curry the youngest England’s youngest Six Nations captain since Will Carling in 1988.

Elliot Daly starts only his second match for England at outside centre — the first was in the autumn of 2016 against South Africa — with Henry Slade moving to inside centre. As anticipated, Marcus Smith starts at stand-off.

The unavailability of Courtney Lawes and Jonny Hill opens the door for Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe, also 23, to make his first appearance since being replaced before half-time in a tactical switch against South Africa in the summer of 2018.

“This is the first time I have gone to Murrayfield as underdogs,” said Jones in a clear effort to put the pressure onto the home side. “Scotland are red-hot favourites and they have to handle that. They’re expected to win

“As the first game, this match is hugely important to both sides and we will both want to get off to a winning start. We have a good, young team but we understand the task ahead and we’ll be ready to go after it from the first kick.

“Tom Curry will captain the side for this game and has the respect of the team around him, in Owen [Farrell] and Courtney’s absence. He also has the support of the vice-captains and other leaders in the team such as Maro Itoje and Ben Youngs.

“We have prepared really well for this game. We’ve had a number of obstacles thrown at us, but we’ve overcome them as a more together group and we’re looking forward to getting started.”


Scotland (v England at Murrayfield, on Saturday @ 4.45pm): S Hogg©; D Graham, C Harris, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price; R Sutherland, G Turner, Z Fagerson, J Gray, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson, M Fagerson. Subs: S McInally, P Schoeman, W Nel, S Skinner, M Bradbury, B White, B Kinghorn, S Tuipulotu.

England: F Steward; M Malins, E Daly, H Slade, J Marchant; M Smith, B Youngs, E Genge, L Cowan-Dickie, K Sinckler, M Itoje, N  Isiekwe, L Ludlam, T Curry©, S Simmonds. Subs: J George, J Marler, W Stuart, C Ewels, A Dombrandt, H Randall, G Ford, J  Nowell.

Scotland v England: Ali Price insists he is not wingman to a maverick


About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.


  1. Given the expected conditions I think maybe the experience and solidity of this team could be the way to go. That said, I’m very happy that form has been rewarded with Bradbury and Tuipulotu on the bench. But I can only say that White must have been absolutely ‘pulling up trees’ in training to get in ahead of Velacott – the form 9 in Scottish rugby all season. And Blair K must know where some of the SRU bodies are buried (with photographic evidence and sworn affidavits to boot) is the only conclusion I can draw about Adam’s exclusion!
    Bring it on – can’t wait :-)

  2. I didn’t get leaving out Hastings, even though what I’ve seen oh him for Gloucs hasn’t been wow” it hasn’t been meh.
    Suffice to say he is in the Gloucs squad for tonights game against London Irish. On the bench
    I would suggest that Townsend is picking on form not reputation, but leaving Darge out contradicts that. The lad is far and away the form Scottish player and force of nature.

  3. Once again a comment I posted has vanished into the ether. I’d love to know what was wrong with it, or is it only those who’s faces fit that are allowed to post?

      • sometimes posts don’t appear. Sometimes those same posts appear much later, but some don’t. This happens. I’ve no idea why.

        So its not paranoia. I don’t think they’re out to get me. I know they are (insert smiley thing as that was a joke)

        There are a few on here who do have paranoia, and its not about posts disappearing

  4. Time to get behind the team. On Kinghorn, he has a few flaws but he can play anywhere and the Edinburgh backline has been far better this year when he’s playing. Vellacott is a live wire and brings a lot but I’ve not seen much of Ben White so no idea what his usp is but he’s done enough in Toony’s eyes. It’s a pretty solid, settled side and Eddie has made us favourites which can’t bode well. Bring on Saturday, bring on live rugby and bring on the fans. Can’t wait.

  5. Kinghorn must be yearning for the days last year when Chris Harris got pilloried regularly on here. Wonder what happened to him 🤔…..

  6. Think that’s our second choice front row starting, is that deliberate? Might be a stroke of genius or an epic fail

    • There’s probably a bit more to front row play than pure scrumming, so I guess it is our first choice. Should be a fairly even contest as the English front row – though often lauded as world beaters by certain media outlets – they suffered the same sort of experience at the hands of more powerful packs like SA and France last year. As a long standing admirer of WP Nel’s work for Edinburgh and Scotland, I’m fairly sure even he would admit his days of running in tries from half way, with a wee shimmy and dummy on the way, are probably in the past. (v Leinster 2013 and still a YouTube highlight)

  7. Shame there’s no place for Cummings or Redpath, with redpath one can only assume lack of game time is a factor. I can see why Kinghorn is on bench, he can cover back 3 and 10 so it’s not that big a surprise.

    Good to see we have so much depth that we can have conversations about good players missing out instead of dreading games because we are thin on quality and depth. It’s a nice problem to have.

    It’s a decent line up and is capable of winning, but we need to ensure good discipline, good decision making and executing the basics in our play to stand a chance. Good luck to the lads

  8. Pretty much agree with all comments, A few I’d wonder about, Gilchrist / Skinner / Cummings; White / Vellacott; and I’d def go Hastings over Kinghorn ( but I have no view of Hastings recent form?)?

    Kinghorn has played well at 9 at times I think, but his kicking has verged on the woeful at times. So who kicks if Finn goes off …. as we all know, the lack of a 80-90% kicker has cost many teams the game, though with the weather forecast, perhaps it’s a lottery anyway? But missed touch kicks can hurt just as much.

    Anyway, go in confident and you never know, come on SCOTLAND !!!!

  9. Perhaps heavier laddies due to potential inclimate weather???

    I agree Hastings being omitted continues to trouble me, I have reservations re Kinghorn but give him his due he has been excellent this season and he will certainly keep the English defence honest.

  10. Biggest concern i have what does kinghorn bring to game, not great at any of the basics at pro level never mind international.

  11. Good luck to the lads on Saturday. Weather looks awful so might make it a lottery.

    Jones with his usual mind games. I don’t make us favourites. In with a great chance though.

  12. I think I’ve yet to agree completely with a Toony selection. On form Vellacott, Bradbury and Schoeman would all have been in my starting line-up, while I’m not sure what more Hutchinson has to do to get even a sniff of the wooden furniture. Not having Hastings or any other front-line goal kicker on the bench is the real mystery though. It could seriously hurt us come the crunch when every point is vital.

    • very wet and very windy. Need a 9 who can show some game management and has a decent kicking game. Vellacott has nether.

    • I’m pretty concerned about our cover for the backline if I’m being brutally honest.

      Don’t understand White over Vellacott at all. I think Vellacott is Scotland’s form 9 at the moment, although he was never going to supplant Price as starter at this stage.

      I simply don’t rate Kinghorn as international class in any position – and certainly not 10 – at the moment. He has skills, no doubt, but he lacks composure, control and a reliable tackle. I hope I’m wrong but I suspect he is going to cost us a close game due to a loose moment (moments which, despite their frequency, he has been getting away with for Edinburgh this season).

      Tuipulotu has looked good. I thought he might be on the bench to cover Redpath/Harris but it seems clear we are going for a muscular midfield rather than a playmaking midfield. I would probably have gone with Redpath instead but I can understand why Tuipulotu has got the nod.


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