England drop Freddie Steward for Scotland game as George Furbank named full-back

George Furbank at England training session for 2024 Six Nations George Furbank starts at full-back for England (Adam Davy/PA)

England have rolled the dice in their bid to reclaim the Calcutta Cup from Scotland by dropping Freddie Steward in favour of George Furbank at full-back.

Steward has been an ever-present under successive England regimes because of his unrivalled ability under the high ball, but having started the opening two rounds of the Six Nations he is jettisoned from the 23 completely.

The inclusion of Furbank could pay dividends as the Northampton playmaker will provide more of a cutting edge in attack than Steward, but even in the dry conditions expected at Murrayfield on Saturday the selection is gamble.

Furbank has yet to convince in his six caps dating back to 2020 but the 27-year-old, who can also operate at fly-half, is a classy ball player whose skills have helped Saints take the Gallagher Premiership by storm this season.

The decision at full-back is influenced by Ollie Lawrence’s return at inside centre in an injection of ball-carrying clout into the backline.

England have lacked a runner capable of breaking tackles and drawing in defenders as a decoy but Lawrence will perform that role in the pivotal round-three clash in Edinburgh.

He missed the victories over Italy and Wales because of a hip injury but has been preferred ahead of Manu Tuilagi to provide physical presence in the number 12, resulting in Fraser Dingwall being axed from the midfield.

Dingwall’s strength is as a link player and in a nod to the ball skills and game management he provided in the opening two rounds, England feel the all-round game of Furbank is needed at full-back.

In total there are five changes to the starting XV that dispatched Wales 16-14 at Twickenham, with Ellis Genge and Dan Cole appearing in the front row in a rotation of the props.

Completing the adjustments is the promotion of Danny Care to scrum-half for his 99th cap after Alex Mitchell was ruled out by a knee injury.

England have also beefed up their bench by naming George Martin as replacement lock for his first appearance since starring in the World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa in October.

Martin sat out the start of the Championship because of a knee injury but will provide brawn on both sides of the ball.

Only England and Ireland are still on for the Grand Slam but, having lost three successive Tests to Scotland, Saturday will provide the toughest examination of Steve Borthwick’s side yet.

“We’re pleased with the start we’ve made to our Six Nations campaign but know that a difficult test awaits us in Edinburgh against an in-form Scotland team,” Borthwick said.

“The atmosphere is always special for any Calcutta Cup match and I’m sure this weekend’s game at Murrayfield will be no different.

“This group of players are looking forward to the challenge on Saturday and to creating some very special memories.”

England team to play Scotland in Six Nations

Forwards: 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George (Captain), 3 Dan Cole, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Ethan Roots, 7 Sam Underhill, 8 Ben Earl

Backs: 9 Danny Care, 10 George Ford, 11 Elliot Daly, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 13 Henry Slade, 14 Tommy Freeman, 15 George Furbank

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Fin Smith, 23 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso

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