Scotland will face the hero of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup win, Jonny Wilkinson, when they open their RBS 6 Nations Championship campaign at Twickenham on Saturday.
Wilkinson, who only made his comeback from a 12 week injury at the weekend, is named to make his first England start since that World Cup final. He will be paired in midfield with rugby league recruit Andy Farrell, while Jason Robinson returns from his self-imposed exile on the wing.
Scotland head coach Frank Hadden admitted he was “slightly surprised” at Wilkinson’s nomination. “The times when he has made comebacks (from injury) before, he has played pretty impressively but there is no way he is at the peak of his powers,” he observed.
Hadden reckoned that the match represented “completely uncharted territory” for England in the light of eight defeats in their last nine Tests. “We have to put pressure on them in a way that stops them firing and we believe we can do that,” he added.
Two players sat out the Scotland training at Murrayfield this afternoon as preparations stepped up for Saturday’s match.
Centre Ben MacDougall (facial knock) and scrum-half Sam Pinder (shoulder) were injured playing for their respective pro-teams, Border Reivers and Glasgow Warriors, in the Magners League on Friday night.
Both players will be subject to further assessment over the next 24 hours by the Scotland medical team.
England team: Ian Balshaw (Gloucester); Josh Lewsey (Wasps); Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Andy Farrell (Saracens), Jason Robinson (Sale Sharks); Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle Falcons), Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers); Perry Freshwater (Perpignan), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Phil Vickery (London Wasps) captain, Lewis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Danny Grewcock (Bath Rugby), Joe Worsley (London Wasps), Martin Corry (Leicester Tigers), Magnus Lund (Sale Sharks). Substitutes - Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Julian White (Leicester Tigers), Tom Palmer (London Wasps), Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers), Peter Richards (Gloucester), Toby Flood (Newcastle Falcons), Mathew Tait (Newcastle Falcons)
The Scotland team will be announced at 10am tomorrow.