6N: Revamped England drops Tuilagi and Scotland drops Price
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Manu Tuilagi was dropped as new coach Steve Borthwick overhauled England with eight changes for the Six Nations opener against Scotland this weekend.
Despite his frequent injury-enforced absences, Tuilagi was always picked when available. But he was not even in the reserves on Thursday.
Joe Marchant was preferred at outside center after injuries ruled out Henry Slade, Dan Kelly and Elliot Daly in the buildup to the game at Twickenham on Saturday.
Marchant, who started four games in the 2022 Six Nations, earned his last cap on the mid-year tour of Australia.
There were new faces everywhere after 2022 ended with a home loss to South Africa and coach Eddie Jones being dismissed.
London Irish winger Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut, and Sale flanker Ben Curry has his first cap since June 2021 and a win against the United States.
Curry made up a new back row with Lewis Ludlam and No. 8 Alex Dombrandt, appearing for the first time in a year. Maro Itoje’s second-row partner was Ollie Chessum, who came to the fore on the June tour of Australia after a debut off the bench in the Six Nations.
In the reserves, Harlequins hooker Jack Walker could make his England debut, Dan Cole could earn a first cap since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, and back Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021.
Scotland dropped scrumhalf Ali Price and promoted Ben White.
Price has been the leading 9 for Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, and started all four tests in the autumn. But his form for Glasgow has been off, while White has excelled for London Irish. Glasgow’s George Horne was the reserve scrumhalf.
Price was one of four British and Irish Lions not to make the starting side on Thursday, beside prop Zander Fagerson, flanker Hamish Watson and center Chris Harris, who was in the reserves.
Fagerson started training only last week after a hamstring injury in December and was available but Townsend said on Thursday this test was too early for him. He was replaced by WP Nel, who reached 50 caps in November.
The absence of Watson — concussed against New Zealand in November and back in action only last weekend — and Rory Darge has been compensated by the selection of Luke Crosbie, who has been Edinburgh’s player of the month twice this season. Crosbie, who has been in Scotland squads since 2019, will receive his third cap.
Harris and injured wing Darcy Graham have made way for Huw Jones and Kyle Steyn. Jones was in midfield with his Glasgow clubmate Sione Tuipulotu, and has four tries in four matches against England. Steyn was chosen ahead of Blair Kinghorn and Sean Maitland.
Fullback Stuart Hogg was picked despite not having played since late December because of a heel injury.
England: Freddie Steward, Max Malins, Joe Marchant, Owen Farrell (captain), Ollie Hassell-Collins, Marcus Smith, Jack van Poortvliet; Alex Dombrandt, Ben Curry, Lewis Ludlam, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Ellis Genge. Reserves: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs, Ollie Lawrence, Anthony Watson.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ben White; Matt Fagerson, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie (captain), Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray, WP Nel, George Turner, Pierre Schoeman. Reserves: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Jonny Gray, Jack Dempsey, George Horne, Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris.
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