Our experts pick their England teams to face Scotland – and you can too

Steve Borthwick, England head coach, looks on during an England rugby open training session at Twickenham Stadium on February 16, 2024 in London, England
Steve Borthwick will have to reshuffle his deck at Murrayfield - Getty Images/Warren Little

After a break the Six Nations returns this weekend with England facing a tough test as they travel to Murrayfield to take on Scotland.

There has been both good and bad news for head coach Steve Borthwick in recent days, with the returns of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence promising to bring some much-need punch to his match-day squad. 

However, the loss of scrum-half Alex Mitchell is a blow and means Borthwick will have to rely on a 37-year-old Danny Care and the inexperienced Ben Spencer as his options at No 9.

Here, Telegraph Sport’s rugby writers select their sides and you can too.

The return to fitness of Ollie Lawrence should bring some much-needed heft to the England midfield but also leaves Steve Borthwick facing a conundrum - play Lawrence in his best position at outside centre at the expense of Henry Slade and his left-footed kicking? Lawrence has so far been asked to play at 12 for England and, against Scotland and with the expected wet conditions, on this occasion, Borthwick may decide to stick with Slade at 13.

But if England are to develop inside centre options, then Fraser Dingwall deserves another chance and England deserve to see the best of Lawrence at 13, where he has been imperious for Bath this season, with Elliot Daly able to provide left-footed exit kicking. Otherwise, the return of George Martin will allow Maro Itoje to drop back to the blindside flank, adding to England’s line-out options and power. A fit-again Luke Cowan-Dickie on the bench replacing Theo Dan.

Lawrence would add some much needed ballast to England’s midfield that would open a lot more possibilities for the back line as a whole. Dingwall’s time will come again but Slade offers greater experience alongside him. In the pack, Martin comes in at blindside to also offer some heavy-hitting punch. Suddenly the English forwards have a bit of bully about them, particularly with Ellis Genge starting at loosehead. Cowan-Dickie will be able to provide a jackalling threat off the bench.

England need more jackalling. Ben Earl and George Ford joked after the Wales win that their new defensive system was supposed to win back possession quickly. The introduction of Ben Curry, at the expense of Sam Underhill, could remedy that. It would also add pace to a starting pack that is designed for set-piece dominance, featuring a gnarled front row and three hybrid lock-blindsides. I like the idea of a six-two split on the bench, but that probably puts too much onus on Lawrence lasting 80 minutes in his first game in a month. Cowan-Dickie, another groundhog, replaces Dan on a bench full of dynamism.

Those returns in midfield and the second row give England some rather pleasant selection decisions to mull over. Their need for more punch makes you lean for Tuilagi over Lawrence, although the speed of Lawrence’s recovery from a hip issue has been a pleasant surprise and made what seemed to be a straightforward decision, bringing in Tuilagi for Dingwall, into a trickier debate.

Slade’s defensive importance so far in this new system for England means that he keeps his spot. Danny Care can always bring impact but it would be interesting to see him start, while in the pack, either one of Itoje or Martin could move to blindside flanker. Martin’s line-out prowess and physicality makes England stronger - think how sensational he was in his last Test appearance in that Rugby World Cup semi-final.

A handful of changes. One enforced, the others not. In the absence of Alex Mitchell, Ben Spencer’s club form deserves reward. Care has been spritely off the bench during the championship so far and England will still value dynamic contributions from their bench. To provide midfield heft, Ollie Lawrence starts (if fully fit) while Manu Tuilagi comes onto the bench. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is a fine talent and prospect but the wing was unused against Wales and what is the point in carrying replacements who will not get on?

Genge and the returning Martin bring an abrasive edge to the pack, with Dan Cole reinstalled to shore up the scrummage at a drizzly Murrayfield. That leaves Itoje sliding to six - which he has not done for a while at international level but at which he is adept - with Ethan Roots and Chandler Cunningham-South to explode off the bench.

The Slade-Dingwall pairing has coped but hardly wowed, so Lawrence - a less risky choice to the injury-prone Tuilagi - is drafted in to pack extra punch in the midfield. There is a first Test start for Feyi-Waboso, who could provide the ball-carrying muscle that England have sorely lacked out wide. The returning Martin proved his weight in gold at last year’s World Cup and is parachuted into the starting line-up, while Spencer is more than a viable candidate to run the show at Murrayfield. Given the sprinkling of changes, I have reluctantly kept Ethan Roots in for consistency, more than anything else.

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