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White starts at scrum-half for Scotland in Six Nations clash against England

London (AFP) – Ben White was a notable inclusion in Scotland’s starting side to face England in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday after coach Gregor Townsend left regular scrum-half Ali Price out of his matchday 23.

White, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield, will partner fly-half Finn Russell as Scotland seek to launch the tournament with a third win in a row over arch-rivals England.

Price was released by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend to play for Glasgow last weekend, having previously managed only four starts and six bench appearances so far this season, with just 70 minutes of rugby this calendar year.

Townsend, speaking via Zoom Thursday from Scotland’s training camp in Spain, said leaving out Price, a veteran of 58 caps, had been “very difficult”.

He added: “Ben’s been really consistent ever since he came into the squad. He’s had more game time for London Irish this year, he’s just grown in confidence.

“There’s someone in form, someone who can play the way we want to play, which is to be smart with our kicking decisions and playing at real pace.”

White will partner Russell, who starred at fly-half against New Zealand and Argentina following his controversial omission from the original squad for the Autumn Nations Series.

Glasgow’s Kyle Steyn has seen off competition from Blair Kinghorn and Sean Maitland to replace the injured Darcy Graham on the wing.

In midfield, Chris Harris is on the bench with former Scotland fly-half Townsend recalling Huw Jones alongside Sione Tuipulotu in the centres.

Jones has an outstanding record against England, with four tries in as many matches in rugby union’s oldest international fixture.

Up front, prop Zander Fagerson has been ruled out of the 23, having been sidelined since the start of December with a hamstring injury.

WP Nel, who won his 50th cap in November, has been selected at tighthead prop.

Saturday’s match, the latest in a line of England-Scotland fixtures dating back to 1871, is set to be played in front of an 80,000-capacity crowd after the 2021 Twickenham encounter, won 11-6 by the visitors, took place under coronavirus restrictions.

‘Inspire our nation’

Former Scotland fly-half Townsend, asked what winning in front of a full house at Twickenham — where the Scots have recorded just five victories over England — would mean to his side, replied: “It would be massive.

“But 2021 meant so much as well. We got sent videos of people at home who had been consigned to their houses for a while during lockdown. And that gave them a massive lift.

“With Scots in the stadium this weekend it would mean a lot and you’d get much more connection and emotion from the performance in the game. That’s what we’re striving towards.

“We’re here to win and inspire our nation and make them proud. There’s no better fixture in which to do that than the England game.”

England, under new coach Steve Borthwick following the sacking of Eddie Jones, are due to name their side later Thursday.

Scotland (15-1)

Stuart Hogg; Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ben White; Matt Fagerson, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie (capt); Grant Gilchrist, Richie Gray; WP Nel, George Turner, Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Jonny Gray, Jack Dempsey, George Horne, Blair Kinghorn, Chris Harris

Coach: Gregor Townsend (SCO)

© 2023 AFP

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