Thursday 6 February 2020 10:00 pm

Faltering England face a tough test of their mettle in feisty Six Nations clash with Scotland at Murrayfield

England face Scotland in the Six Nations on Saturday in a match which carries huge significance, both historically and for the tournament.

Eddie Jones has opted to make five changes as England attempt to wrestle back momentum following their disappointing 24-17 defeat against France in the opening game.

They were poor in Paris, but I don’t think the overall performance was a total disaster. France started well, got a bit fortunate with their second try and then defended really impressively. I also believe England deserve credit for their comeback; they out-scored France 17-7 in the second half. 

Read more: French revolution: Galthie’s radical overhaul gives France new aura of unpredictability

There were some sloppy individual performances though. Ben Youngs was ineffective, George Furbank had a bit of a horror-show on debut and Owen Farrell was far from his best in difficult conditions.


That makes it two successive defeats after the World Cup final and, with Ireland coming up next, England can ill afford another slip up. 

Sweeping changes

In that context it’s hardly surprising Jones has made changes. No matter how many caps he has earned, Youngs could not hope to keep hold of the No9 shirt playing the way he currently is.

Willi Heinz takes over from the start at Murrayfield, but Youngs will still get the chance to affect the game from the bench. 

I’m surprised Furbank has kept his starting place at full-back and I think if Anthony Watson had been fit that might not be the case. The Northampton man is sure to be tested under the high ball on Saturday and Elliot Daly, who stays on the wing, would have been a safer option at No15.   

Mako Vunipola’s return at loosehead prop is a big boost as he’s the best in the world in that position, while the second row looks strong again with the addition of George Kruis.

Mako Vunipola’s return is a boost for England (via Getty Images)

Lewis Ludlam, who comes in for Courtney Lawes, makes sense as it is bound to be a dogfight around the ruck. Having Ludlam, Sam Underhill and Tom Curry all fighting for turnovers is a good move.

However, I would like to see a specialist No8 playing. Curry is a fantastic player who deserves his place, but he remains inexperienced at the back of the scrum.  


These games are always fantastic occasions and England should be ready for an almighty contest. They have won just three of their last seven games at Murrayfield and Scotland will be aiming to make a real statement, like in their 25-13 win two years ago.

I thought they should have beaten Ireland last weekend and they will be fired up to make amends. 

Community spirit

The Calcutta Cup has a great history, having taken place between the two fierce rivals since 1879, and it has been fantastic to see the rugby community come together in support of two of its former competitors.

For a second year ex-players are putting in a monumental effort, cycling 500 miles from Twickenham to Murrayfield in just 48 hours to deliver the match ball on Saturday afternoon. 

The amazing physical endeavour, dubbed The Wounded Lions 500, is in aid of the charities of two Scotland legends, Doddie Weir and Tom Smith. 

Doddie, who is living with motor neurone disease, set up the My Name’s Doddie Foundation, to try and find a cure, while Tom, who has stage four colon cancer, has founded 40tude to fund research projects into the disease.

Both are top blokes and were world class players, and the group, which includes Rob Wainwright, John Barclay, Paddy Johns, Kelly Brown, Will Carling and Paul Wallace, deserves our support in undertaking such a challenge to try to reach their £150,000 target.

Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn

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