London: England coach Stuart Lancaster said he faced a selection debate after Billy Twelvetrees marked his Test debut with one of the team’s four tries in their 38-18 Calcutta Cup win over Scotland at Twickenham.
Saturday’s success saw England launch their Six Nations campaign in convincing fashion with Twelvetrees, in for the injured Manu Tuilagi, delivering an accomplished all-round performance that saw him run a good line for a try on the crash ball early in the second half.
Flyhalf Owen Farrell carried on from where he left off in England’s record-breaking 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December by landing seven out of eight goal-kicks for an 18-point haul.
But while Farrell’s place for next week’s clash away to Ireland appears assured, the 24-year-old Twelvetrees’s spot is far from certain as England expect to have Tuilagi back from an ankle injury.
“It is a big step up for any player to make his debut, particularly at Twickenham,” said Lancaster. “We are delighted with the way he [Twelvetrees] took it to get the try but his confidence and composure has been good all week. It shows he is ready to make the step.
“Across the board and with Manu coming back into consideration there will be some selection decisions to make.”
Of the match against Ireland, who started their Six Nations with a 30-22 victory away to Wales, Lancaster added: “Ireland are an outstanding side. We need to make sure we are ready mentally, physically and technically.”
England’s other tries came via wing Chris Ashton, lock Geoff Parling and replacement back Danny Care.
Scotland’s New Zealand-born wing Sean Maitland crossed on his debut before Stuart Hogg grabbed a consolation try 10 minutes from time, with scrum-half Greig Laidlaw kicking two penalties and a conversion.
But it was the composed man-of-the-match display by Farrell, still only 21 years old, that caught the eye of England attack coach Mike Catt.
“The mental toughness that he possesses was very noticeable,” said the former England utility back. “He was cool and calm under pressure and I thought he attacked the line very well. We look at putting the ball to where the space is and Owen did that.”
That Farrell had so much good ball to work with was down to the dominance of England’s pack and Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson said his side’s failure to win the breakdown battle had been the key factor in their defeat.
“We can dream away about how we’d like to play the game of rugby but the reality is in the modern game, if you don’t get the contact area right, you can dream all you like, it’s fantasy, fairytales won’t come true,” said the Australian after his first game in charge of Scotland.
Scotland, who now have not won at Twickenham since 1983, suffered an early setback when flanker Alasdair Strokosch went off with a cheekbone injury.
But Johnson, who took over after Andy Robinson resigned following the 21-15 loss to Tonga in November, refused to use that as an excuse.
“It’s no coincidence that the best team in the world [New Zealand] are the best in the contact area, both with and without the ball,” said Johnson.
“Everyone looks at their great rugby players, but they can’t be great rugby players unless they are getting quality ball.
“There’s no panacea except good old-fashioned hard grunt. You can’t dress it up. Dad always used to say: ‘if it looks like a pig, it’s a pig’.”
Scotland now face Italy, who play France on Sunday, at Murrayfield next week, where they will look to avenge the 13-6 loss in Rome that gave them last season’s wooden spoon.
“We need to get up,” said Scotland captain Kelly Brown. “It’s as simple as that. You can feel sorry for yourself but it’s not going to achieve anything. It’s up to us to learn our lessons, work hard and make sure we come out firing.”