Eddie Jones has turned up the heat on Scotland before Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash, questioning whether they can handle the weight of expectation on the 150th anniversary of the historic match and insisting they "don't have a monopoly on pride".
Scotland have not won at Twickenham since 1983, but came agonisingly close to ending their barren run two years ago, coming from 31-0 down to take the lead before George Ford's last-gasp try rescued a 38-38 draw for England.
Jones on Thursday sprang a surprise by dropping Ford for the first time since the 2019 World Cup quarter-final, shifting his captain Owen Farrell to outhalf and handing the 21-year-old Ollie Lawrence a first Six Nations start at inside-centre.
Scotland, meanwhile, hand a debut to former England under-20 international Cameron Redpath, with Townsend bullish over their prospects of a rare Twickenham victory, claiming the lack of a crowd makes for a level playing field.
Stoking the flames before the milestone match, however, Jones was adamant that the history surrounding Saturday’s clash will not hand Scotland an early advantage.
“You listen to the Scottish, how much it means to them, it’s their biggest game of the year, their most important game, they are playing for trophies,” said Jones. “That’s a huge expectation for them and maybe, with 15 minutes to go in the game, the expectation is going to get pretty heavy for them. We know for Scotland this is their most important game of the year, they talk about it all the time. But Scotland don’t have a monopoly on pride.
“Our players get an opportunity to play in this historic game, and they are going to be ready for it. We know Scotland are going to be up for it, but so will we. We like it as a team, that teams see this game as so important. It makes us raise our own game. We know we’re going to have to be at our best to beat Scotland because they have been prioritising this game as their game of the year.”
England begin the defence of their title without five senior forwards, with Jones also handing Six Nations starts to Will Stuart at tighthead prop and Jonny Hill in the second row, while Beno Obano is in line for a first cap from the bench.
Billy Vunipola has previously warned that England will have a target on their backs as defending champions, and Jones acknowledged everyone wants to knock his side off their perch.
“Unless we keep improving, then the teams are going to get us,” he said. “We want to become a really good team so we’ve got to keep improving. The challenge is to make sure we don’t stand still, we keep moving forward.
“Individually the players have to keep working hard on their games, and collectively, as a team, over the last 10 days we’ve worked hard to be on the same page, so we’ll be ready for Scotland.
“It’s one of the traditional rivalries. Certainly when I was a kid growing up, watching England play Scotland you knew that game had special meaning. Now having the privilege of being part of those games, you understand how important it is to both countries and more particularly to Scotland.
“They’ve come out very clearly and said it’s the most important game of the year. That expectation for them is high.”