The start of the 6 Nations is a thrilling time of year for all rugby fans. Famous rivalries are renewed, bragging rights are contested and the biggest names in Northern Hemisphere rugby battle for supremacy.
For English fans though, 2023 is the start of a new era. With Steve Borthwick taking the helm from Eddie Jones in December, hopes were high ahead of the start of the 6 Nations. A new coaching setup, fresh ideas and a talented crop of young stars had English fans excited ahead of the opening game at Twickenham.
The first game for the new England regime was a Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland at Twickenham and with so much hype around the game, The Green Room atmosphere was buzzing from the moment our first guests came through the doors. Could England regain The Calcutta Cup? Could England turn talent into a performance and would English fans see any progression from the turgid, lacklustre displays that characterised Eddie Jones’ final games in charge?
With the likes of Sir Clive Woodward, Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Tindall all showing their support of Steve Borthwick ahead of the game, confidence amongst our English rugby legends was high. Tempering English exuberance was none other than Scottish legend Jim Hamilton, who warned English fans there might be a sting in the tail.
Guinness flowed freely, glasses of Champagne were raised, and the laughs echoed around the room as kick-off time approached at this highly sought-after England Rugby hospitality experience. With the grey afternoon sky descending into dusk, it was time for guests to take their seats for this huge game.
The game did not start well for England, with Scotland’s Huw Jones crossing the English line after just 13 minutes. Despite this ominous start, England battled back and after a superb 14-pass passage of play, Max Malins collected Marcus Smith’s deft chip to dot down in the corner. With the score at 7-5 to Scotland and defence starting to take over, Scottish winger Duhan Van Der Merwe picked up the ball five metres inside his own half and proceeded on a mazy, mesmeric run, carving through no less than five English defenders to score one of the most memorable tries ever scored at Twickenham.
Having played the better rugby in the first half, Scotland would have been somewhat disappointed to concede another Max Malins try, followed by an Owen Farrell conversion which saw them go into the shed 13-12 down at halftime. With the game finely in the balance, accuracy, clarity and composure would be required to get the win in this one.
England started the second half the better, with Ellis Genge barrelling his way over after just seven minutes in the second half. Scotland needed a fast repost and boy did they deliver. Scrum half Ben White picked the ball up from a back of a ruck, and the English defence parted. With White’s converted try and the scores at 20-19, the momentum was now back with Scotland.
Another Owen Farrell penalty stemmed the tide, but more English indiscipline firstly gave Finn Russell another penalty and then with the scores at 23-22 flying winger Van Der Merwe found himself on the end of another flowing Scottish move to crash his way over. With the score at 29-22 to Scotland, they repelled wave after wave of English attack, with captain Jamie Ritchie securing the penalty for Scotland to kick the ball out and secure a famous victory.
Scotland’s last three visits to Twickenham have yielded a draw and two wins – the best ever sequence of results for the Scottish team on their travels to Twickenham and their fans were delighted after beating the Auld Enemy again. For Steve Borthwick though, this was the worst possible start to his tenure as England coach.
After such a thrilling game, Green Room guests may have been disappointed with the result, but a fantastic game was witnessed by all and post-match banter between English and Scots was rife. Speaking post-match, Lawrence Dallaglio was scathing of England’s tactics and warned they would have to be far better to beat Italy next week.
After the Italians nearly pipped the French in Rome on Sunday, the Azzurri will arrive at Twickenham on a high and Steve Borthwick will have to rally his troops ahead of what is now a real pressure cooker of a game this Sunday.
With a solid performance and a resounding win now the only acceptable result for England, all eyes will be on TW2 on Sunday when Italy come to town…