Inspirational Jamie George has already delivered on England captaincy promise

Jamie George will sit on the bench at Murrayfield watching supporters file into the stadium and think about his mum, Jane.

The England captain’s mother died, aged 68, on Wednesday last week, but the Saracens hooker still opted to take part in an open training session at Twickenham last Friday. George wanted to occupy his mind, and England were fully ready to accede to his wishes.

If the 33-year-old 87-cap front-rower had wanted time off to grieve, head coach Steve Borthwick would without doubt have agreed. Instead, George will take all the raw emotion encapsulated in losing a loved one and wrap it up into the fire, fury and frenzy that is the Calcutta Cup and proudly lead England into battle.

George has developed a custom of sitting pitch-side in the early stages of pre-match preparation. The England skipper’s heart will no doubt swell as he sits in the dugout, warming himself on the fact that his mum got to his see him captain his country.

The way George’s tear-filled eyes lit up as he spoke candidly at Edinburgh’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on Thursday showed that his rugby-mad mum was one of the best. George did that toughest of things, opening up and looking back, while continuing to move forward; take a breath, heave it all in and back out again; reset and go to work.

And how England will have their work cut out, too. Scotland are favourites — let that sink in; such strong favourites, in fact, that some bookies have given Ireland shorter odds of pulling off the Grand Slam than of England winning at Murrayfield.

If Scotland do prevail, they will equal their best-ever run of four consecutive victories over England. The last time they managed such a streak, Harry Nilsson was topping the UK charts with Without You.

Jamie George will captain England against Scotland following the death of his mother (PA)
Jamie George will captain England against Scotland following the death of his mother (PA)

A run of results not seen since March 1972 certainly puts some context on Scotland’s malaise in the last 52 years, but also their current Calcutta Cup dominance.

England have talked of trading their new finesse-based attack for a power-monger approach, now that straight-running centre Ollie Lawrence is back in action.

If the slender wins over Italy and Wales were about trying to pick the lock, some of the finer Edinburgh elements could well be to “kick the door down”, as coach Kevin Sinfield alluded to this week.

All eyes will be on the selection of George Furbank at full-back, with the six-cap Northampton man preferred to a fully-fit Freddie Steward.

Leicester high-ball king Steward is one of the world’s best as a last line of defence. Furbank has been one of the Premiership’s form men this term, though, and his inclusion underscores boss Borthwick’s determination to promote those who thrive in the club game.

England will need Furbank to add an extra play-making dimension across the backfield, but also shut down Scotland’s avenues to kick deep into space.

Henry Slade faces just as pivotal a match as Furbank. The Exeter centre will win the 60th cap of a Test career that, for all its impressive points, still refuses to catch fire.

The 30-year-old boasts all the credentials to be one of England’s most compelling and influential operators, but has never quite brought all that to bear in the Test arena. As Manu Tuilagi mounts his latest injury comeback, Slade will know the pressure is on to deliver, and how England could do with a classic performance from him.

England will need to nullify stellar Scots fly-half Finn Russell, too, with the Bath man seemingly boasting unrivalled skills on tap.

Attempt to second-guess the magician play-maker Finn Russell, and England will be in a spin

Few men in world rugby can so deftly disguise their intentions on the ball, with his consistency of movement hiding his actual plan to the split-second. Attempt to second-guess the magician play-maker, and England will be in a spin.

England’s new blitz defence means they will look to stifle Russell’s time and space, but all too often the master creator has found ways out of similar traps. England must steel themselves, instead, to defend through the aggression and alignment of their new system, where keeping collective shape is paramount.

Scotland have gained great recent success from needling England into losing their cool. The at times brittle mentality under Eddie Jones appears to be receding, but now England need to cement that growing durability.

The best England teams of every era simply refused to flinch or flap. This iteration is yet to find that focus.

Borthwick’s reign needs a landmark victory; Scotland believe they are the better team; and England are out to do it for their captain’s mum.

George promised his captaincy would reconnect this England team with the public. Whatever the outcome on Saturday, he has already delivered.