It is 150 years since England and Scotland first played each other and they celebrate with another mouth-watering edition of rugby’s oldest rivalry on Saturday afternoon. Scotland took the spoils on that spring day in Edinburgh, scoring two tries to England’s one at Raeburn Place in front of 4,000 spectators.
And, although no-one will be there on Saturday, millions in the UK and around the world will be tuning in to see if Gregor Townsend’s men can wrestle the Calcutta Cup back and end their 38-year Twickenham hoodoo.
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Of course, that will be easier said than done. England are the defending Guinness Six Nations champions and holders of the Calcutta Cup following their gritty 13-6 win at BT Murrayfield last year.
They will also want to right the wrongs of two years ago, when Scotland came back from a 31-0 deficit to score 38 unanswered points in a thrilling 38-38 draw.
Twickenham is a fortress for England, and especially against Scotland – who have not won away to their great rivals since 1983.
But, unlike so many recent journeys, this Scotland side will head south with genuine belief.
After a slow start to the 2020 Championship, Scotland have won three Guinness Six Nations games on the bounce, including at home to Grand Slam-chasing France and away to Wales for the first time since 2002.
In Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg, they are finally able to reunite their two best players after Russell broke team protocols and sat out most of the last campaign, while their scrum is becoming a real strength.
Former Scotland head coach Jim Telfer believes they have a real shot at victory but England cannot be underestimated.
They are going for a fourth title of the Eddie Jones era and have a largely settled side with seasoned winners such as Maro Itoje, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell.
Jones has only lost once to Scotland since becoming England head coach and will be confident of preserving that record on Saturday.
WHAT THEY SAID
England head coach Eddie Jones: “We’re really looking forward to this game and getting the Guinness Six Nations back underway. It’s even more special to be taking part in a 150th anniversary game, it will be a good occasion.
“It was difficult to pick the 23 players. We’ve had a really good week of training, it’s been very competitive but I’ve gone with what I feel is the strongest 23 for this week.
“The Six Nations is a short tournament, it’s a real sprint so we’ll need to be on the front foot straight away. We know Scotland will be raring to go – but so will we.”
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “This most historic of fixtures against England is a great start to the 2021 Guinness Six Nations and a challenge we will fully embrace with the objective of playing to our potential and ultimately lifting our supporters in these difficult times.
“We learned a lot about ourselves and where the game is going during our Autumn campaign, and we aim to build on this base during the next seven weeks. We are set for a huge challenge against England as we will be facing one of the best teams in the world.
“It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new player into our squad and we are looking forward to Cam Redpath winning his first cap on Saturday. We have been really impressed with Cam’s contributions in the time he has been with us in camp.”
KEY BATTLE – Ollie Lawrence v Cameron Redpath
There are so many intriguing match-ups to look out for here: Will Stuart v Rory Sutherland, Maro Itoje v Jonny Gray, Owen Farrell v Finn Russell and Anthony Watson v Duhan van der Merwe, to name a few.
But the battle at inside centre between Ollie Lawrence and Cameron Redpath, who played alongside each other for England Under-20s in the not too distant past, is well worth looking out for.
Lawrence has been given a vote of confidence by Jones and fills in for the injured Manu Tuilagi as England’s big ball-carrying back. He struggled to make much of an impact in the Autumn Nations Cup but will hope to kick on in his first Guinness Six Nations start.
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The man opposite him could have been an England teammate. Cameron Redpath switched allegiances after playing for the Red Rose at age-grade level to follow in the footsteps of his father Bryan, a former Scotland captain, and Gregor Townsend has thrown him straight in at the deep end on debut.
A second playmaker, Redpath is there to dovetail with the creative Russell at fly-half, so how they combine – and if England can stop them – could well be the key to the game.