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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Fraser Watson

England accused of 'illegal' scrum ahead of Six Nations opener with Scotland

The legality of England’s scrum will be in the spotlight when Steve Borthwick takes charge for the first time against Scotland this Saturday.

Last week, a conference call between match officials and the scrum coaches from each of the Six Nations teams left RFU personnel red-faced, with the presentation including multiple examples of the England scrum being penalised. According to the data presented, the Red Roses only retained 85% of their own ball in 2022.

The area also proved problematic in the Autumn series, and being taking apart by South Africa in one proved the final game of the Eddie Jones era. The Springboks prevailed that day 27-13, with Jones, who was sacked weeks later, vociferously critical of the referee afterwards with his side having given away four scrum penalties.

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, match officials used the recent meeting to highlight issues surrounding the England scrummage. Jones, 63, was said to have previously been uninterested in dialogue with the World Rugby referee department.

Borthwick will field Ellis Genge, Jamie George, and Kyle Sinckler in the front row for the Calcutta Cup clash, having already made a crucial coaching change in that department. Former scrum coach Matt Proudfoot was promptly released after the former Leicester man was appointed, replaced by ex-international hooker Richard Cockerill.

Set-piece preparation has reportedly been extensive as England bid to topple their auld enemy for the first time since 2020. Borthwick's coaching team has also held talks with World Rugby since the damming conference call took place.

Steve Borthwick takes charge of England for the first time against Scotland (Getty Images)

It's now just front row issues that Borthwick, 43, has seemingly addressed though. He's also opted to field an entirely new back row, with Ben Curry given his Six Nations debut at openside flanker.

Amid a raft of changes, Joe Marchant also replaces Manu Tuilagi in midfield, meaning captain Owen Farrell remains at inside-centre alongside fly-half Marcus Smith. Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as substitute while another replacement, Dan Cole, is set to earn his 96th Test cap more than three years after his last one.

Borthwick's side kick off at 4.45pm, following the Wales v Ireland game at 2.15pm. Defending champions France start their campaign away to Italy tomorrow.

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