‘Red-hot favourites’, Eddie? I guess we in the media are to blame.
Every time we fall for this cod-psychological guff. Eddie Jones talks every year without fail about the pressure Scotland are under, and the massive expectation.
With wins in 2018 and 2021, a draw in 2019 and a sole, very narrow defeat in 2020, the Scottish squad seem to not really be paying much attention to him.
It’s the thing about these so-called ‘mind-games’ that are nothing of the sort. This glib rubbish is all chip shop paper by the time the result is known, and nobody remembers.
But I think Eddie’s halfway right this year. Not red-hot, but Scotland are cosy favourites. Mostly because they have a cohesive, tested team while Jones has not.
Townsend takes the conservative route again
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 1, 2022
Perhaps it’s evidence of a settled and competitive team. But the Scotland head coach again showed he’s much less adventurous picking a team than he ever was playing in one.
The most interesting selections for those of us looking for intrigue are on the bench, where Magnus Bradbury returns, Ben White wins his first cap, Blair Kinghorn is the back-up 10 and Sione Tuilupotu covers the centres.
Jonny Gray and Rory Sutherland’s makes this a team that have been through the ringer together plenty of times. Grant Gilchrist’s selection ahead of Sam Skinner and Scott Cummings one suspects is for lineout assurance.
Bradbury has recently made a big case for starting at No 8, where he offers more ballast than Matt Fagerson, but Townsend has stuck with the Glasgow No 8.
They must REALLY like White, who hasn’t had a lot of starts for London Irish, to prefer him to Ben Vellacott, George Horne, Scott Steele and Jamie Dobie. Tuilupotu offers a bit of difference off the bench.
On the other side, what a difference a year makes…
So powerful 💪
Duhan van der Merwe's match-winning try against England earlier this year. pic.twitter.com/sYvffR9RPB
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) December 13, 2021
Only 9 of England’s matchday 23, and just four starters (one of whom is in a different position) survive from the defeat at Twickenham last year. Nearly half of the England team have less than 10 caps.
Some key men – new stars Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward for instance – haven’t played a test away from Twickenham yet.
Eddie Jones is missing Lions – Farrell, Lawes, Jonny Hill – and has jettisoned some others. It’s a complete change in direction less than two years out from the World Cup.
Is it desperation? After last year’s dreadful campaign, they had to hit the re-start. England were really good against (a visibly tired) South Africa in November. But they’re visibly limping coming into the game.
Another storm, but it’s not nearly the same
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 3, 2022
It’s supposed to be wet, windy and cold in EH12 on Saturday, which reminds most of the 2020 game, in which England wrestled out a narrow win using their physical pack.
But it was wet, windy and cold at Twickenham last year, and Scotland were much more the better team than 11-6 suggested. Also England had a physicality two years ago they really don’t have this year, with Billy Vunipola ditched and Courtney Lawes out injured.
Plus, the Scots remember two years ago very well and where they went wrong. It was also the only game in the last four against England that Finn Russell didn’t play. It’s also their only defeat in that spell.