Big hitters return as England look to power their way to Calcutta Cup glory

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a>'s Manu Tuilagi (foreground) and Joe Marler in training as they prepare for Murrayfield.</span><span>Photograph: Adam Davy/PA</span>

England head to Scotland for­­ ­Saturday’s crucial Calcutta Cup clash boosted by heavyweight power, according to Kevin Sinfield who said his side are braced for “niggle” from their opponents at Murrayfield.

Steve Borthwick has Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence at his disposal again to power up his midfield after both missed England’s opening two matches with groin and hip injuries respectively. The hard-hitting Leicester forward George Martin is also available again for his first Test appearance since his stunning display in England’s narrow World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa last October.

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Not for the first time, Borthwick bemoaned England’s lack of power after their narrow opening victory over Italy, and while Fraser Dingwall and Henry Slade have performed solidly in midfield in the opening two matches, the head coach is likely to involve at least one of Tuilagi or Lawrence against Scotland as England seek a first Calcutta Cup win for four years. “Ollie and Manu both bring power,” the assistant coach Kevin Sinfield said. “What those two bring, they will kick the door down, and they certainly bring that. To have that power in Ollie and Manu available is important to us as we look to find the right balance this week.”

Tuilagi, 32, has been sidelined since December after the latest in a long line of injuries, but Sinfield added: “Don’t write him off yet. He’s still got some really good years ahead of him, and he’s very much a big part of how we move forward and what we are doing here.”

Martin, meanwhile, made his fourth start for England against the Springboks but caught the eye with his physicality, in particular with a thundering tackle on Franco Mostert. Sinfield, who used to coach Martin at Leicester, said: “He’s big. Physical. Aggressive. Great ball carrier, and he’s one of our better defenders. It was great to have him back available. I’ve worked closely with him at Leicester and he’s the type of guy that if you ask him to do something he just wants pointing in the right direction. If selected at the weekend I have no doubt he’ll leave a mark on somebody. He’s already a top player, but he’s going to get better and better.

“We understand we’re going into a place that has not been very fruitful for us for a period of time, but it doesn’t change how physical we’d like to be this weekend. George will no doubt be at the forefront of that for us.”

Martin was named in the second row against South Africa but could also line up at blindside flanker against Scotland, or be used from the bench. Ben Spencer is also in line for another cap – his first since the 2019 World Cup final – after Harry Randall, who was called up as cover for the injured Alex Mitchell, was released back to the England A squad, leaving just the Bath scrum-half and Danny Care as the two No9s.

Spencer has formed an impressive halfback partnership with Scotland’s Finn Russell at Bath this season and with fellow England squad members Lawrence and Max Ojomoh plying their club trade outside him, the coaches have been farming the trio for information on the star fly-half. “We’d be daft not to tap into some of that knowledge and try and understand a bit about how he plays at Bath, and what we think he will take up to the Scotland camp,” added Sinfield.

England last beat Scotland in 2020 when Ellis Genge’s try settled a dismal match in equally poor conditions, and it remains their only win in their last six attempts. Recent trips to Murrayfield have seen a fracas break out in the tunnel and Eddie Jones vent his fury after one of his assistant coaches was struck with a bottle on the way into the ground.

“There’s certainly going to be some niggle,” added Sinfield. “When you’ve got two angry, nasty forward packs wanting to go at each other, there’ll be some niggle. It’s a Test match, there’s a lot at stake, as you point out we haven’t won against them for a number of years, no doubt there’ll be some niggle, there’ll be some bits thrown at us over the next couple of days that we haven’t planned for or we haven’t quite expected.”