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Six Nations Preview: England vs Scotland

By James Harrington
England's Jack Nowell

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The weekend’s big game at Twickenham shapes as a Calcutta Cup match for the ages.

England vs Scotland at Twickenham (Sunday, March 12, 12:00 am HKT)

What we can expect
A Calcutta Cup match for the ages. Really. This promises all the hallmarks of a thriller. England, underperforming but still winning and with some big-match players returning, against a Scotland side playing their best rugby for years. Throw in a Calcutta Cup and a Triple Crown chance for good measure, and you have a recipe for something just a little special. The Six Nations match of the weekend.

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England
The big story from the England camp is sitting right there, on the bench – Billy Vunipola is back in a white shirt. He’s on the bench alongside brother Mako, with Joe Marler holding on to the number 1 shirt to win his 50th cap. Otherwise, Eddie Jones has made three changes, with Jonathan Joseph, Jack Nowell and Ben Youngs all starting. Bath winger Anthony Watson is alongside Vunipola among the replacements. It’s not a bad line up for

Matchday 23: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Maro Itoje, 7 James Haskell, 8 Nathan Hughes. Bench: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Anthony Watson.

Scotland
Scotland are on the brink of what would be their first Triple Crown since 1990. To get it, they have to beat England at Twickenham for the first time in 34 years and lift their first Calcutta Cup since 2008. The fact that this is even being seriously talked about is an indication of how far Scotland have come under Vern Cotter. Hamish Watson – who started the first two matches of the tournament before being benched for the last match against Wales – returns courtesy of an injury to John Hardie, with the uncapped Cornell Du Preez taking Watson’s place among the replacements.

Matchday 23: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price; 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 John Barclay (c), 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Ryan Wilson. Bench: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Mark Bennett.

All eyes on: That England bench
Eddie Jones insists on calling them finishers, as opposed to replacements. That’s some finish, right there.

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Key battle: Launchberry and Lawes vs the Gray brothers
There’s intrigue all over the pitch. Ford v Russell; Brown v Hogg; Farrell and Joseph v Jones and Dunbar; the front rows, the back rows… but the clash of boiler rooms has it all. You pays your money and you picks your Lions’ locks right here… Don’t forget to include Maro Itoje in your thinking, though.

Prediction
This is going to be epic. But the fact is, England have discovered the secret art of not losing. And they’re at Twickenham. England by 7.

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