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Furbank brings offensive advantage to England's efforts to avenge their defeat at Murrayfield | Written by Robert Kitson
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Furbank brings offensive advantage to England’s efforts to avenge their defeat at Murrayfield | Written by Robert Kitson

The scoreboard can often reveal the truth. Can you guess the last time England scored more than 20 points at Murrayfield? Here’s a hint: the song “Hey Ya!” by Outkast was at the top of the UK charts that month, Mark Zuckerberg had recently launched Facebook from his dorm room, and Sir Clive Woodward was still the coach. While Edinburgh is a lovely city, it rarely witnesses England’s strongest offensive performance.

The weather has frequently been unpleasant. Although there have been a few positive outcomes since 2004, including the 20-0 victory under Stuart Lancaster in 2014, the team only scored two tries despite their dominance. On other occasions, their inability to score consistently has led to damaging losses and given Scotland the opportunity to surprise them.

It’s not unexpected that Steve Borthwick wants to alter this repetitive pattern. Borthwick is intelligent and understands that with Finn Russell as the fly-half, Scotland will likely score at least one or two converted tries. This means that if England wants to maintain their undefeated record in the Six Nations, they will likely need to surpass their previous scoring efforts in Edinburgh over the last 20 years.

Surprisingly, Freddie Steward, who is known for his safe play, is being replaced by George Furbank. Furbank is an in-form full-back who excels at football and has the potential to challenge the opposition’s defense. While Steward is reliable for handling high balls and providing reassurance, Furbank brings a unique skill set. This different approach is exactly what England needs to stand out in the upcoming tournament and catch the attention of top teams.

It was likely that Steward could have foreseen this when Ollie Lawrence was declared fit and able to provide more strength in gaining ground. Lawrence’s physical presence in the midfield adds balance and makes a strong defender at the back less necessary. The upcoming weather forecast also predicts a cold and dry evening, potentially encouraging England to be more expansive with their ball movement. Borthwick confirmed that the team is focused on evolving their attack and scoring points, especially with the close results of previous games against Scotland. It is crucial for them to continue winning while also improving their ability to score points efficiently.

This week’s rotation could have occurred sooner in the competition if Lawrence had not been injured and Smith had been able to play at 10, as originally intended. The backline for Northampton has been performing well this season, with 27-year-old Furbank playing a crucial role with his smart running, skilled passing, and overall dependability.

He is certainly better placed to prosper than he was on his unexpected debut against a rampant France in Paris four years ago. As well as adding a few extra kilos in the right kind of places, successfully captaining the flying Saints has also bolstered his confidence. “I definitely feel like a different player now,” said Furbank. “Steve just said he wanted me to bring my game to this England team. I’m looking to be George Ford’s eyes and ears, feed information into him, dominate with ball in hand and be aggressive with that side of things.”

Steve Borthwick and his England team hold a training session at Twickenham.

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The longer you observe the England team, the more it seems like they are determined to raise their overall performance. Ellis Genge will bring more power to their ball-carrying, Danny Care will be active in the close quarters, and George Martin will provide added strength coming off the bench. At the same time, they will need to avoid getting caught up in a chaotic match that allows Russell even more opportunities to cause chaos.

Equally crucial will be preventing the aggressive visiting defense from being consistently outmaneuvered, as seen in Scotland’s loss to South Africa in the World Cup. Despite entering the game with ambitious plans, Scotland only managed to score three points in a grueling 80 minutes. The Springboks’ fast-paced defense, led by England’s strategist Felix Jones, often left Scotland’s flyhalf Finn Russell without options and ultimately crushed their hopes.

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After five months, there are two significant distinctions. The first is that England is not as dominant, robust, or stable as South Africa. The second difference is that Scotland and Russell have had the opportunity to consider an alternate plan: utilizing their top performer as a diversion at times, focusing on the smaller Ford and Care, and finding more success in the scrum.

In their memory, England may still be thinking about Genge’s decisive score in Edinburgh four years ago. However, they should also remember van der Merwe’s impressive try at Twickenham last year, where many English defenders were unable to keep up with his agile movements.

Scotland may choose to post that video this week, possibly accompanied by the song “Don’t You (Forget about Me)” by Simple Minds. However, if England manages to overcome their struggles and defeat Scotland, they may opt for a different 80s hit such as “Promised You A Miracle.”

Source: theguardian.com