SCOTT Johnson has cut his squad down to 25 and out go four forwards, Alasdair Dickinson, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson and Richie Vernon, and five backs, Tom Heathcote, Sean Kennedy, Alex Dunbar, Duncan Weir and Tommy Seymour, who will all now join the Scotland A squad.
Alasdair Strokosch returns after the birth of his second child.
So what is your team selection to face England now?
Last week, we got the debate going with my team and nothing that has happened this week persuades me to change my predicted side, although I do think Scott Johnson may opt for a slightly different one.
There are three key areas that I think he and coaches Dean Ryan, Stevie Scott, Massimo Cuttitta and Duncan Hodge will have spent a lot of time ruminating over – second row, back row and midfield.
In the second row I opted for Gray and Kellock last week, but always felt that he and Ryan might plump instead for Jim Hamilton and Gray to tackle England’s powerful pack with power. I fear that misses the ability of Al Kellock to control lineouts with England and English teams in recent years, but Hamilton is a big man, has many qualities and is playing well by all accounts at Gloucester so it may that they take a half or so each.
The back row is an intriguing one. With Strokosch out of the training camp last week I went for Rob Harley, as the form back row in Scotland this season, at openside flanker with Kelly Brown at six and Johnnie Beattie at eight. But with Strokosch back in, his wife having given birth to their second child, I can see Johnson opting for Strokosch at blindside flanker, Brown at openside – where he has played for Scotland recently – and Beattie at no 8.
I think Greig Laidlaw and Ruaridh Jackson are stuck-on at half-back and will be surprised if we don’t see a back three of Sean Maitland, Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg, so that leaves the centre pairing. I expect it to be Matt Scott and Sean Lamont, with the latter’s power and experience desired to stem the threat of Manu Tuilagi (though the Samoan-born star is still a doubt with an ankle injury), but Peter Horne, hugely impressive with Glasgow this season, could be Johnson’s surprise pick, if not as a starter on the bench.
The replacements will change from my suggestion last week with Heathcote and Dickinson out – which leaves no clear loosehead replacement intriguingly - so I’ve made some changes there, but what do you think?
Over to you Scotsman readers…
DAVID FERGUSON’S SCOTLAND XV v ENGLAND
S Hogg; S Maitland, S Lamont, M Scott, T Visser; R Jackson, G Laidlaw; R Grant, R Ford, E Murray, R Gray, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, K Brown (capt), J Beattie.
Subs: D Hall, M Low, G Cross, A Kellock, D Denton, H Pyrgos, P Horne, P Murchie.