England make five changes for Six Nations clash with Scotland
BAGSHOT – England coach Eddie Jones has reacted to last week's opening Six Nations defeat by France by making five changes to his starting team to face Scotland in Edinburgh on Saturday.
Willi Heinz replaces Ben Youngs at scrumhalf, Mako Vunipola returns from injury to the front row and George Kruis has been named in the second row. Lewis Ludlam comes in for Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker, with Tom Curry continuing at number eight, while Jonathan Joseph replaces injured Manu Tuilagi at outside centre.
Saracens' Ben Earl and Bath hooker Tom Dunn are set for a debut as two of six forwards on the bench. Dunn was recalled to the squad after Luke Cowan-Dickie left camp on Thursday to be with his partner, who has gone into labour.
Joe Marler, who started in Paris, is left out of the matchday squad, with Ellis Genge as loosehead back-up and Will Stuart covering tighthead.
England lost on their last visit to Murrayfield and drew 38-38 with Gregor Townsend's team at Twickenham last year after blowing a 31-0 lead. Scotland also lost their opening game of this season's competition, away to Ireland.
"Their win record against England at Murrayfield is substantially higher than their overall record against us, so we have to recognise they are a dangerous beast and we have to be at our best to beat them," Jones said, despite the fact that the Scots have won the home fixture only once in the last 12 years.
In that 25-13 victory two years ago England were blown away at the breakdown as their loose trio of Chris Robshaw, Courtney Lawes and Nathan Hughes struggled. Ludlum, Sam Underhill and Curry, albeit operating from the unfamiliar number eight position, look a far more dynamic proposition this time for what should be a fascinating battle in an area of strength of the Scots.
If Jones has largely corrected that breakdown issue, his team's failure to fix problems "on the hoof" remains a major concern. It was at its most glaring in last year's Calcutta Cup fixture as England's players looked like rabbits in the headlights as Scotland somehow came from 31-0 down after half an hour to lead 38-31, before George Ford saved the home side's blushes.
Head coach Eddie Jones during the England Team Announcement Press Conference. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
The problem was obvious too in last year's World Cup final defeat by South Africa and in last week's loss in Paris, where England looked desperately short of ideas and invention despite spending long periods camped in the French 22.
"We can do better with that," said captain Owen Farrell, when asked about the issue, for which he is starting to attract a fair amount of criticism. "Eddie spoke about leadership being a big part of it and we want to make sure that we see stuff, quickly, and get people to buy in to that and push forward – that probably took too long last Sunday."
"We are constantly working on that type of stuff and we had a good look at ourselves to see how we can do it better."Reuters