Scotland, England go with rugby continuity

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 and that is new hooker and captain Dylan Hartley, who missed the tournament due to 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 quarter-finals in October.

The Scots came closer than any other northern hemisphere team to reaching the World Cup semi-finals, 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 said.

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 their 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 colour 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.”

The world’s oldest international fixture has been one-sided of late, with England winning the past six Tests against Scotland.

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