RUGBY UNION : England stick with tried and tested against Scots

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The Independent Online
By yesterday the England selectors had recognised there was no point in leaving any longer their choice for the Grand Slam match against Scotland at Twickenham on 18 March, so they duly named it 12 days ahead of schedule.

They cannot be said to have revealed anything that was secret, since the same team for the fourth time in four Five Nations matches was certain as soon as last Saturday's defeat of Wales had been added to those of France and Ireland.

The Scots, who will go to Twickenham with Grand Slam aspirations of their own if they beat Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday week, would have wished for the same same-again luxury but yesterday had to make two enforced changes.

Ian Jardine's broken jaw permits Scott Hastings to return at centre against the Welsh for his 52nd cap and another discard from the 1990 Grand Slam team, Doddie Weir, takes the place at lock left by Damian Cronin because of his elbow injury.

The English decision to bring forward their team was prompted partly by their decision to return to their autumn training base at Marlow for an extra practice session on 1 March. In the meantime the players have cup quarter-final ties this Saturday and a full round of league fixtures on 4 March when the other countries play the fourth round of Five Nations matches.

Injury permitting, England will go in against the Scots with a team who have played throughout the championship for only the third time in their history, the 1991 Grand Slam team were the last. No change has always meant success: England were joint champions in 1960 and Ireland in 1983, France and Scotland won the Grand Slam in 1977 and 1990 respectively.

Jason Leonard's 38th appearance will take him past Jeff Probyn as England's most-capped prop and make him the sixth member of the current team, after Rory Underwood, Will Carling, Rob Andrew, Brian Moore and Dean Richards, to be most-capped in his position.

The French and Irish selections for their game at Lansdowne Road will be made known today. Ireland are expected to have Eric Elwood back at outside-half after their defeats by England and Scotland but the changes they make are likely to be less radical than France's.

Christophe Deylaud's confidence is so shattered that he has already told his selectors he does not wish to be considered to continue at outside- half. An alteration will also be needed on the right wing because Philippe Bernat-Salles's legacy of the Scottish game was a broken elbow.

ENGLAND (v Scotland, Twickenham, 18 March): M Catt (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), J Guscott (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), K Bracken (Bristol); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), M Bayfield, T Rodber (Northampton), D Richards (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: J Callard, P de Glanville (Bath), D Morris (Orrell), G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe, S Ojomoh (Bath).

SCOTLAND (v Wales, Murrayfield, 4 March): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), G Townsend (Gala), S Hastings (Watsonians), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers, B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Wright (Boroughmuir), G Weir (Melrose), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool), E Peters (Bath), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: I Glasgow (Heriot's FP), A Shiel (Melrose), D Patterson (West Hartlepool), J Richardson (Edinburgh Academicals), J Manson (Dundee HSFP), K McKenzie (Stirling County).