Scotland, England go with continuity to open Six Nations

BY foxsports • February 4, 2016

The first Six Nations after a Rugby World Cup is usually a time for experimentation, with teams throwing in some fresh faces in a nod to the future.

England and Scotland clearly didn't get the memo ahead of their match at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The side selected by new England coach Eddie Jones could easily have been picked by his predecessor Stuart Lancaster. So much for the winds of change supposedly breezing through English rugby after Jones' arrival.

There was only one player included who wasn't part of England's dismal World Cup campaign: Hooker Dylan Hartley, the new captain who missed the tournament because he was serving his latest suspension.

So, is Jones being cautious, or just wily?

''We've picked the best 23 for this game,'' Jones says, repeating his stance on numerous occasions.

As for Scotland, it's pretty much the same story. Coach Vern Cotter made just two changes to the side that lost narrowly to Australia in the World Cup quarterfinals in October.

The Scots came closer than any other northern hemisphere team to reaching the World Cup semifinals, and there is widespread positivity regarding their progress under Cotter. Hence, the settled look to the team and the importance that Cotter is attaching to ''continuity.''

''There's a huge amount of excitement and determination among the group to start well, and do well, in this championship,'' Cotter says, ''and show that they have learned from past experiences and developed their game.''

A closer look at England's preparations, though, and change is there for all to see.

There's the new captain in the uncompromising Hartley, who replaces Robshaw. And an insistence by Jones that England will look to regain its dominance up front that the team has been renowned for down the years, but lost under Lancaster.

Also, there are a number of up-and-coming players pushing for inclusion. Three will be on the bench in Edinburgh - Ollie Devoto, prop Paul Hill, and flanker Jack Clifford - and Jones says two more, lock Maro Itoje and center Elliot Daly, will be involved soon.

And then there are the little things. On Thursday, England trained in its white match jerseys, and took part in attacking drills against defensive lineups wearing blue - the color of Scotland's jerseys. Players have been allowed to drink during ''relaxing nights'' in another departure from the culture-first Lancaster era.

''It's an exciting time,'' says Robshaw, who will play as a blindside flanker under Jones. ''We've put the World Cup to bed and it's a fresh start. It's a new way of how we are going about our business.''

The world's oldest international fixture has been one-sided of late, with England winning the last six tests against Scotland. This one promises to be closer after Scotland showed flashes of inspiration out wide in the World Cup to back up the team's prodigious work rate up front.

Center Matt Scott and flanker John Barclay were recalled to the team and there are only four members in the 23-man squad that did not feature in the World Cup. They include reserves Duncan Taylor and Stuart McInally, who missed the tournament through injury. Uncapped 20-year-old Zander Fagerson will be the youngest prop to represent Scotland since 1948 if he comes off the bench at Murrayfield.

''It'll be the toughest match we have played against Scotland in a while,'' Robshaw says.



Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett, Matt Scott, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (captain); David Denton, John Hardie, John Barclay, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Willem Nel, Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson. Reserves: Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson, Blair Cowan, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor.

England: Mike Brown, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jack Nowell, George Ford, Danny Care; Billy Vunipola, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw, Joe Launchbury, George Kruis, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley (captain), Joe Marler. Reserves: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Paul Hill, Courtney Lawes, Jack Clifford, Ben Youngs, Alex Goode, Ollie Devoto.

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