Ollie Lawrence and Cameron Redpath go from best of team mates to ‘auld enemies’ when the Six Nations kicks off tomorrow.
Less than two years ago the pair combined in England’s midfield to hammer Scotland 45-7 in an age-group international.
Now they are in opposing camps, Redpath having turned his back on his English rugby upbringing to side with the land of his father.
At lunchtime yesterday the son of Scotland legend Bryan was rewarded with a first cap by Gregor Townsend. At much the same moment his great pal was being handed his Six Nations full debut by Eddie Jones.
Two 21-year-olds set on a collision course, wearing the same number and about to share the biggest sporting experience of their lives.
“Cam is ready to go,” declared Townsend. “He can’t wait to play and we can’t wait to see him out there.
“He’s his own man, very mature, someone who could be a leader in our squad in the next few years.”
Jones does not need the heads-up. He has known how good Redpath is since selecting him for England’s tour of South Africa three years ago.
But for injury wrecking that plan before he even boarded the plane, the Bath centre would likely have been under Red Rose lock and key by now.
Instead he is in England’s line of fire at Twickenham, with captain Owen Farrell admitting: “From what I’ve seen he is a brilliant player.
“He’ll be a big threat for them – as hopefully Ollie will be for us.”
Lawrence, one of four personnel changes to the side which won the Nations Cup last time out, brings “power and a bit of punch” to the England back line.
Asked if the Worcester star would be looking to send a message to Redpath that he made the wrong decision in choosing Scotland, his skipper smiled.
“I’m sure they’ll be competitive, yeah,” said Farrell. “In any sort of battle if one gets a chance to get one-up on his mate, they’ll let him know about it after.”
This is a scrap that might have taken place on a different, no less passion-filled, sporting stage had the young duo maintained their early love of football.
Redpath spent two years in the academy at West Brom while Lawrence was playing first at Birmingham, then Aston Villa.
But each had his head turned, so instead of a fierce West Midlands derby they will lock horns in the 150th anniversary of rugby’s oldest fixture.
Lawrence’s selection is made possible by Farrell’s switch to fly-half in a line-up which sees call-ups for forward trio Will Stuart, Jonny Hill and Mark Wilson.
“For this game we feel it’s about finishing with both (Farrell and Ford),” said Jones. “History shows that this fixture is won in the last 20 minutes.”
England: Daly; Watson, Slade, Lawrence, May; Farrell (capt), Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Itoje, Hill, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Cowan-Dickie, Obano, Williams, Lawes, Earl, Robson, Ford, Malins.
Scotland: Hogg (capt); Maitland, Harris, Redpath, Van der Merwe, Russell, Price; Sutherland, Turner, Z Fagerson, Cummings, J Gray, Ritchie, Watson, M Fagerson.
Replacements: Cherry, Kebble, WP Nel, R Gray, Graham, Steele, Van der Walt, Jones.