LONDON (AP) — Rugby union's oldest international rivalry resumes in the Six Nations on Saturday with England and Scotland apparently heading in opposite directions.
While England is buoyant after a remarkable 38-21 victory over world champion New Zealand in its last test match, Scottish rugby is in the doldrums after a humiliating loss to Tonga in the autumn internationals dropped the national team to 12th in the world rankings.
Anything other than a big win — and therefore retaining the Calcutta Cup — for the English would be a major surprise as Scotland is without a win at Twickenham in 30 years. However, the Scots love nothing more than being given the tag of underdogs.
"The reality is, history is someone else's history," interim coach Scott Johnson said. "We are going to create our own history. "We are a new group on the block and that unknown factor is a good thing for us."
That was precisely the position England occupied at the start of last year's Six Nations. Stuart Lancaster had just taken charge of a national team in disrepute after its embarrassing World Cup campaign in New Zealand, and had decided to blood a number of young, hungry players with a view to the 2015 World Cup.
Performances and results went better than expected, with a second-place finish guaranteeing Lancaster the position of full-time coach and the team not looking back. The Dec. 1 win over New Zealand, which hadn't lost in 20 games, was unexpected but merely continued the upward momentum.
"I'd like to think we did deliver a change," Lancaster said. "This time last year, I was sat here as interim coach, and on the back of the World Cup we made 15 changes — seven players got first caps against Scotland and there was a new captain. The most important thing for me was to get that culture right and the reason why playing for England is special."
That seems to have been ingrained in this England set-up, although it hasn't stopped the sniping from the Scotland corner. Comments from former Scotland coach Jim Telfer were strong and will probably be put up in the England changing room before kickoff.
"There's the makings of a good squad, but it is not good at the moment. Like the English football team, a couple of wins and they think they are world-beaters," Telfer said. "They are too arrogant, too pretentious and too condescending to realize they have a problem."
With two wins from their last 15 Six Nations matches and the home loss to Tonga still hurting, the Scots knew changes were necessary. Johnson has come in for the beleaguered Andy Robinson as coach and there is a new-look — and very speedy — wing pairing of Dutch-born Tim Visser and New Zealand-born Sean Maitland, who makes his debut.
"He has some serious wheels," captain Kelly Brown said of Maitland, whose grandparents are Scottish. "If we can give him some space, he could be really exciting." Hooker Dougie Hall will make his first start since 2007, and No. 8 Johnnie Beattie wins a cap for the first time in two years.
England handed a debut to center Billy Twelvetrees and recalled prop Joe Marler, with injured pair Manu Tuilagi and Alex Corbisiero dropping out in the only changes in personnel to the starting lineup from the win over New Zealand. Brad Barritt will switch to outside center to accommodate the 24-year-old Twelvetrees.
"Sometimes opportunities present themselves in different ways — we know Manu is going to be fit for next week (for Ireland away) and we hope Billy puts a marker down this week and gives us another headache," Lancaster said on Thursday.
The presence of Dylan Hartley, Danny Care and Toby Flood among the replacements means England's bench (230 caps) is more experienced that the starting team (191 caps).
England: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees, Mike Brown, Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (captain), Tom Wood, Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Joe Marler. Reserves: Dylan Hartley, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Danny Care, Toby Flood, David Strettle.
Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Johnnie Beattie, Kelly Brown (captain), Alasdair Strokosch, Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray, Euan Murray, Dougie Hall, Ryan Grant. Reserves: Ross Ford, Moray Low, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans.