England host Scotland in their Six Nations opener and Simon Mail expects the champions to make a winning start...
"England have an impressive home record having been beaten just once at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012."
England v Scotland
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England bidding to defend title
England launch their Six Nations title defence this weekend with a home clash against Scotland and the champions are fancied to make a positive start. Eddie Jones guided England to victory in both the Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup last year as they built on their run to the 2019 World Cup final. Despite starting with a defeat last season in France, England won their remaining games to land the Six Nations for the third time in five years.
It is no surprise England start this year's competition as favourites with games at Twickenham against Scotland and Italy giving them a strong platform to hold on to the trophy.
England ended last year by edging out France in the final of the Autumn Nations Cup despite facing questions about their attacking limitations.
Jones bristled at the suggestion England were not entertaining enough and his focus on physical power is highlighted by his team selection for this match. Ollie Lawrence makes his first Six Nations start with the Worcester inside centre partnering Henry Slade. Owen Farrell starts at fly-half with George Ford having to settle for a place on the bench. Lock Jonny Hill and flanker Mark Wilson are picked with prop Beno Obano set for his debut after being named as a replacement.
Scotland seeking to pull off huge upset
Scotland head into this year's competition with optimism for a strong campaign after the progress made last season. Gregor Townsend's side won their final three matches in the 2020 competition, with notable victories over France and Wales.
Scotland ended the Six Nations with the best defensive record after only conceding 59 points.
Focusing on improving their finishing will be a priority and the return of Racing 92 fly-half Finn Russell is a huge boost to the backline. Russell only returned from his exile for the final game against Wales last season after resolving his differences with Townsend. His involvement adds another dimension to their attack and provides a dangerous combination with captain Stuart Hogg at full-back.
Cameron Redpath has previously featured in England's youth teams but he will line up against them after the 21-year-old Bath centre was handed his Scotland debut. Sean Maitland and Duhan van der Merwe both start on the wing in the 150th anniversary of the sport's oldest fixture. George Turner comes in at hooker after injuries to Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally.
England could be pushed close at Twickenham
Scotland are searching for their first win at Twickenham since 1983 although they came mightily close in their extraordinary showdown in 2019. England raced into a 31-0 lead before Scotland stunned the hosts by scoring six tries without reply to take the lead. Ford denied them an astonishing victory as his late try salvaged a 38-38 draw.
England came out on top last season in an attritional battle at Murrayfield, in strong winds, with Ellis Genge scoring the decisive try in their 13-6 win. But Scotland defeated England at home in 2018 and will certainly not be overawed by facing the champions with no fans in attendance this weekend. A 15-point handicap advantage looks generous for Scotland with the underdogs staying within this figure in the last three meetings against England.
Saying that, England have an impressive home record having been beaten just once at Twickenham in the Six Nations since 2012 and the 1.182/11 favourites can deliver a winning start. Scotland's improved defence suggests the visitors are capable of keeping this close and an England win by no more than 12 points stands out at odds of 3.185/40.
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