In the end, the spells were cast elsewhere. The finishing touches in this crackling Calcutta Cup were applied not by the painted nails of Ollie Hassell-Collins but by other fliers and wizards around Twickenham.
For this, his international debut on England’s left wing, the 24-year-old decorated his fingers with the flag of Saint George. ‘Permanent jewellery’, Hassell-Collins calls it. His chance to make a fashion statement even with ball in hand. He likes a trinket and Harry Potter and medicinal mushrooms and walking his cats. And, on a weekend, taking defenders for a ride, too.
As England embarked on this new era under Steve Borthwick, the London Irish wing took his first bow.
Alas, as Scotland triumphed in this toe-to-toe tussle, Hassell-Collins was consigned to the shadows.
It was 65 minutes of effort and endeavour but few real openings. Instead, it was left to others to light up this place and this tournament.
Ollie Hassell-Collins showed glimpses of his ability but wasn’t able to really stand out
Hassell-Collins found himself outshone by Duhan van der Merwe (R), who shone for Scotland
Before all the noise and all the fireworks, Twickenham paused for a moment. Supporters and players from both teams paid tribute to fallen heroes of previous Calcutta Cups. Among them? David Duckham.
Similarities have been drawn between the late, great back, and England’s new wing. Like Duckham, who died last month aged 76, the 24-year-old is tall, blond and has dynamite in both feet.
The final chapter of Duckham’s international career came in this fixture, 47 years ago. And on Saturday, after a nod to the past, England’s flying future began to write his own story in international rugby. By the time he came off, after 65 breathless, brilliant minutes, Hassell-Collins had made more ground than any other player.
His nine carries brought 97 metres and roars of anticipation from the Twickenham crowd.
Yet, for most of the afternoon, Hassell-Collins was limited to a watching brief as Twickenham was dazzled by work on the other wings.
As his opposite number, man-of-the-match Duhan Van der Merwe weaved beyond a half-dozen defenders to score one of the great Calcutta Cup tries – and then win it late on.
As Max Malins, on England’s right flank, responded with his own double and a hefty dose of electricity.
There were flashes of promise from Hassell-Collins, who came off his wing in search of opportunities, whose kick-chases and covering defence won’t have gone unnoticed on the England bench.
One of Hassell-Collins’ England team-mates, Max Mains, also produced an impressive display
From Hassell-Collins’ first run he was pinged for holding on and then Scotland scored
But also some harsh early lessons, too. From the wing’s first run, he was pinged for holding on. Scotland set up camp in England territory and, moments later, Huw Jones scored the opening try.
Hassell-Collins could have opened his account, had either Ollie Chessum or Ellis Genge offloaded his way when England had overlaps.
Instead, his mixed fortunes were encapsulated in a short passage after half-time. From a loose ball, Hassell-Collins drove across the pitch, making a half-break and nearly setting England free. The wing was snagged and left hobbling.
He needed treatment and it seemed his debut would be cut short. Fortunately the wing ran it off. Unfortunately, he was unable to make much more impact before his afternoon did come to an end.
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