Given the length of the injury list that was confronting him just a few weeks ago, Gregor Townsend would have been relieved to a certain extent when it came time to select his Scotland team for tomorrow’s Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham. There are still a few clouds in the sky, but the overall picture is not nearly as overcast as it was.

Of the four players who had hoped to complete their recoveries from injury in time to be chosen to face England, two - Stuart Hogg and Duhan van der Merwe - have made it into the starting line-up announced yesterday. The other two, Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson, are not in the 23 this week but should be available for the home game against Wales in eight days.

Ideally, all four would be fit and in the starting 15, but arguably the two most essential players are the ones who have been passed fit. In WP Nel and Luke Crosbie, Fagerson and Watson have very able deputies, whereas given Darcy Graham’s continuing absence, the loss of Hogg and Van der Merwe in addition would have left the back three looking particularly threadbare.

And if the availability of that pair is one reason for the head coach to be optimistic, so too is the memory of his team’s most recent outing. Momentum can vanish in a matter of minutes during a match, and a vast amount can alter over the course of several months. Nevertheless, Townsend believes that momentum of a sort can be carried over tomorrow from that last game, the comprehensive 52-29 win over Argentina which rounded off the Autumn Test series.

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There have been some significant changes since then, of course. Graham, for example, scored a hat-trick then, and his close-quarters trickery is sure to be missed. But the coach appears to believe that the spirit of that November afternoon is still very much alive and can make itself felt tomorrow.

“One hundred per cent we want to keep the momentum going, and we believe the best way of doing that is putting [out] a team that is in the best form,” he explained. “We don’t obviously play straight after the Argentina game. There’s two months of time where players are back at their clubs and a lot of things that can happen there, injuries being one, changes of form.

“So our aim is to put the best team out there. Clearly in the last game we were able to do more in attack. So yes, we definitely want to keep that momentum going; we believe this selection will help that.”

The ability to “do more in attack” is one reason the in-form Huw Jones is back in the team, although it should be said that the Glasgow centre’s defence is a lot more solid than it used to be. Solidity and form are also the keys when it comes to the selection of Ben White at scrum-half ahead of both George Horne and Ali Price.

While Scotland can turn to the recent past for inspiration, Steve Borthwick, Eddie Jones’ successor as head coach, must simply hope for a fresh start. There is a belief in some quarters south of the Border that the England squad will feel energised not by anything Borthwick says or does so much as by the simple fact that he is not Jones, whose last match at the helm was a defeat by South Africa. Liberated from the negativity which latterly surrounded the Australian, so the argument goes, the home team will come out all-guns-blazing.

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Townsend is certainly braced for an onslaught, but if it comes he will not ascribe it to the advent of Borthwick. “We’d expect England to come very hard and fast at us if they had the same coach, a new coach, or didn’t have a coach at all,” he said.

“You’re playing the first game of the Six Nations at home. They’re going to come at us and look to play their best rugby.

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“In terms of the style of rugby they play, we believe it’ll be similar to how Leicester [where Borthwick was head coach in his last post] have played over the last two years. The coach is unlikely to go away from his philosophy he’s deployed at club level. We expect there’s going to be much more kicking from the England team, and a certain type of defending.

“If it’s different, then we’ve got to adapt to it. That’s the challenge of playing any opposition. Whatever is working for them, we’ve got to stop it.”

There is a school of thought that says it is preferable for Scotland to avoid their oldest and biggest adversaries until later in the Championship, particularly if the match in question is at Twickenham rather than Murrayfield. But, buoyed by recent results in the fixture, Townsend suggested that having such a demanding fixture first up could be the ideal way for his team to get up to speed very quickly - and then stay at the level in the ensuing four games.

“It’s the best challenge to focus your mind. We’ve had England in the first game for the past couple of seasons. It’s one that we know means more than just a one-off fixture, and also one that we know will be hugely challenging. We have to be close to our best for the full 80 minutes. That does focus the mind.”