Calcutta Cup: George Furbank ousts Freddie Steward in bold England selection call vs Scotland

George Furbank will start vs Scotland (AFP via Getty Images)
George Furbank will start vs Scotland (AFP via Getty Images)

George Furbank will make his first Test start in almost two years when England face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The in-form Northampton full-back has ousted Freddie Steward to start at No15, in a bold call from head coach Steve Borthwick based purely on selection.

Leicester star Steward has numbered among England’s most reliable and influential players in Borthwick’s reign, which makes Furbank’s selection all the more powerful.

The 27-year-old Furbank has excelled as Northampton have topped the Gallagher Premiership table this term, and can also operate at fly-half. The twin ability to control the backfield as well as add an auxiliary playmaking option may well have tipped this selection in Furbank’s favour.

Furbank has not started for England since the 25-13 Six Nations loss in France in 2022 however, in which time Steward has all but made the 15 shirt his own.

England will look to add an extra layer of variety to their attack, and will also want to bring the best out of power centre Ollie Lawrence. Bath centre Lawrence has been parachuted straight into England’s XV to add much-needed power, having recovered from a niggling hip problem.

The 24-year-old missed the slender wins over Italy and Wales, but will start at inside centre, with George Ford at fly-half and Henry Slade at No13.

Fraser Dingwall makes way for Lawrence, who has excelled at outside centre for Bath but will wear No12 for England. The powerful and pacy Lawrence and the creative Slade will aim to trade roles in the centres to maximise their complementary skill-sets.

Leicester hardman George Martin returns to the match squad following a knee problem, adding another level of physicality.

Jamie George will captain England, with the hooker keen to press on with his job despite the death of his mother, Jane, last week.

Steve Borthwick’s new-look side sought a more expansive approach in the 27-24 win against Italy in Rome and the 16-14 victory over Wales at Twickenham.

England suffered for a lack of direct, line-breaking punch, however, and have brought back some heavy hitters for the Murrayfield trip. If England were aiming to pick the lock against Italy and Wales, now they will bid to “kick the door down” against Scotland, in the words of assistant coach Kevin Sinfield.

“Ollie brings obvious power, and he will kick the door down,” said Sinfield. “To have that power is important as we look to find the right balance. In the last few weeks, having had different combinations in midfield, it allows us to play in different ways. Any coaching team will tell you having good options can put a defence in two minds.

“We’re going to a place that has not been very fruitful for us, but that won’t change how physical we want to be.”

Saracens back-row forward Ben Earl was happy to reveal England’s tactical hand, admitting the Red Rose men will have to be razor-sharp on their basics.

“We’ve been working really hard on the nuts and bolts of the game,” said Earl. “We’ve got to be hugely accurate in everything.”

Scotland star Finn Russell will again be the dangerman pulling the strings at fly-half. England have tapped into his Bath colleagues Ben Spencer, Lawrence and Max Ojomoh this week, in a bid to analyse the playmaker’s habits. “We’d be daft not to ask them,” said Sinfield. “Finn’s a wonderful player.”

England XV to face Scotland: G Furbank; T Freeman, H Slade, O Lawrence, E Daly; G Ford, D Care; E Genge, J George (capt), D Cole; M Itoje, O Chessum; E Roots, S Underhill, B Earl

Replacements: T Dan, J Marler, W Stuart, G Martin, C Cunningham-South, B Spencer, F Smith, I Feyi-Waboso.