‘A win in Scotland would validate the work England have done in the short term’

Steve Borthwick and England have their sights set on Scotland on Saturday
©David Howlett

England will look to go three wins from three in this year’s Six Nations as they try to regain the Calcutta Cup when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Steve Borthwick’s troops will travel to Edinburgh aiming for a first Calcutta Cup victory for four years and former England and London Irish winger Topsy Ojo has been pleased to see the team evolving in their opening two matches.

Speaking to TRU, Ojo said: “There is more of a willingness to counter-attack especially when you look at the numbers and details of the game in areas where previously we would have expected them to kick the ball back.

“They are now looking to run it, which is what you want to see. It’s a heads-up sport as often as you can. You want to create opportunities to destructure the game and to get into rhythms and that has been noticeable they have been trying to do that more.”

A key to England’s attack in the first two games has been Northampton Saints scrum-half Alex Mitchell but Borthwick will be without his first choice ‘No.9’ due to a knee injury, with reports suggesting the 26-year-old might be ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

Ojo is more than confident that Danny Care - who is the favourite to replace Mitchell - will inject the same sort of tempo whilst on the flip side, there are significant injury boosts in the England camp.

Borthwick will be able to utilise some of his big names on Saturday with both Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence returning to the squad, and Ojo hopes the physicality of the duo can give England a powerful edge.
“Yeah I think they bring that physical presence you want in your team as much as you can,” he says.

“Fraser Dingwall has done very well in the opening two games and has given a sense of calm to the 12 position but you add in the power of Manu and Ollie you give yourself options, so it will be interesting to see what they do with that centre partnership. If there’s a way to add power and pace to your team, and they both can do that, you do it, so you’d like to think one if not both of them can be involved in some way at the weekend.”

In a game that always seems to go down to the wire, Ojo believes the contest will be decided up-front: “It will come down to set-piece in the scrum and lineout,” he adds.

“Whichever team get on top in those areas will probably end up winning the game. It just allows you to dominate territory and possession so much, scrum penalties and then kicking yourself 40 metres up the pitch. If you can control the lineout, you can build on your attack. You force the other team to play on your terms and that is the biggest thing.”

Like Tuilagi and Lawrence, Leicester’s George Martin is also available for his first England outing since his brilliant performance in their World Cup semi-final defeat against South Africa.

“He's an asset absolutely,” Ojo says. “He delivered for Borthwick at the World Cup so he will be happy to have him back. When he’s on form and firing, he’s in that 23.”

Having players of this quality back at his disposal will be a major plus for Borthwick as England aim to improve on just one win from their past six encounters against their northern neighbours.

As for Scotland, Ojo feels Gregor Townsend’s men will back themselves to return to winning ways after their controversial loss to France in Round Two but the former winger and now TV pundit feels an England victory would certainly be a sign of progression.

“If they [England] were to get a result, it would validate the work they have done in the short term with them trying to re-establish this ‘new England’ way of playing and this new England way of defending.

“It will answer some questions and I think this is how they want to play in the long term so this will be a good examination and they will know and have a better understanding of where they are after this game.

“I think England will win because they won’t be favourites, odds are against them. England are building nicely, going about their business, blooding new players and a new style.

“Like I say, if it’s the type of game where they can go up there and impose themselves defensively and be really physical, it would be a moment for them to say; ‘Ok we are on the right track’ and I can see that happening for them.”

Saturday at Murrayfield was always going to be a huge match for both sides, but for Steve Borthwick’s men, an away victory could be a defining point in not only this Six Nations championships but also for the journey they are on.