England makes big call to drop fullback Steward for Six Nations match at Scotland - Hindustan Times
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England makes big call to drop fullback Steward for Six Nations match at Scotland

AP |
Feb 23, 2024 11:08 AM IST

England makes big call to drop fullback Steward for Six Nations match at Scotland

EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland and England changed their fullbacks for their Six Nations clash on Saturday at Murrayfield.

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One of them was a shock.

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While Scotland brought Blair Kinghorn back in harness after a injury sidelined him in the first two rounds, England dropped Freddie Steward.

Steward has been an ever-present in the backfield since his England debut in 2021. Renowned for his aerial skills, he has been England's most reliable back.

But coach Steve Borthwick dropped him altogether, believing George Furbank will provide more of a cutting edge in attack. It is a gamble because Furbank didn't convince in his six caps since 2020 though his recent club form has drawn superlatives.

The decision at No. 15 is also influenced by the return from a hip injury of inside center Ollie Lawrence. He offers the heavy-duty ball-carrier capable of breaking tackles and drawing in defenders that England has lacked. Lawrence was picked ahead of a fit-again Manu Tuilagi.

England made five changes after edging Wales 16-14 at Twickenham.

Ellis Genge and Dan Cole go into the front row in a rotation of the props, and scrumhalf Danny Care has been given a 99th cap as a replacement for the injured Alex Mitchell.

Captain Jamie George didn't want to excuse himself after his mother Jane died last week.

“Sadly, she never saw me captain England because she was too ill to be there but every other game she was there,” he told the BBC. “She loved the boys, she loved watching me play and I want to continue making her proud.”

England is the only rival to Ireland for the Grand Slam. But it is a work in progress after squeezing comeback wins against Italy and Wales.

Scotland has a chance to beat England in four successive championship games for the first time since the 1890s.

Beside Kinghorn, wing Kyle Steyn and Rugby World Cup captain Jamie Ritchie have been summoned following the disputed home loss to France when a late try wasn't given.

Steyn missed that game because his wife went into labor. Ritchie wasn't picked because the back row competition means he's no longer guaranteed selection, also the reason why he was stripped of the captaincy.

“We believe this game will suit his strengths and the experience he can bring to the team as well will be a boost,” coach Gregor Townsend says. ”Jamie's really accepted the challenge that was there about a month ago."

Keeping the Calcutta Cup outweighs thoughts of the Six Nations race to Scotland.

“You're not thinking now of the championship. We'll see where we are after Saturday,” Townsend says.

"The focus is on this game because it's our most important game of the season, most important game for our supporters. We do play for a trophy in among the championship and triple crown and other trophies but this one is one that we're focused on more than the others.

“It probably shouldn't be the case but it is. It's history, it's emotion and we've seen the impact on Scottish supporters when we do manage to get a victory in this fixture so that'll drive us on Saturday.”

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Lineups:

Scotland: Blair Kinghorn, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell (co-captain), Ben White; Jack Dempsey, Rory Darge (co-captain), Jamie Ritchie, Scott Cummings, Grant Gilchrist, Zander Fagerson, George Turner, Pierre Schoeman. Reserves: Ewan Ashman, Alec Hepburn, Elliot Millar-Mills, Sam Skinner, Andy Christie, George Horne, Ben Healy, Cameron Redpath.

England: George Furbank, Tommy Freeman, Henry Slade, Ollie Lawrence, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Danny Care; Ben Earl, Sam Underhill, Ethan Roots, Ollie Chessum, Maro Itoje, Dan Cole, Jamie George (captain), Ellis Genge. Reserves: Theo Dan, Joe Marler, Will Stuart, George Martin, Chandler Cunningham-South, Ben Spencer, Fin Smith, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

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AP rugby: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby

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