England drop Billy Vunipola hint

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 09:42
Large billy vunipola scrum practice 2017 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Billy Vunipola could be in line for a recall to England's starting XV for this weekend's Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland at Twickenham if a photo is indeed an accurate guide to their line-up.

Two whiteboards at the side of the pitch at England's training base in Bagshot, south-west London, on Tuesday, showed Vunipola at No.8 instead of Nathan Hughes.

Both Billy, playing his first game in three months, and brother Mako Vunipola, enjoyed plenty of game time as English and European champions Saracens won 35-27 away to Newcastle in the Premiership on Sunday.

Billy started at Kingston Park after recovering from knee ligament damage suffered in November, three weeks ahead of schedule.

He played all but the last eight minutes against Newcastle and could now feature in both of England's final two games of the Six Nations, with a possible title-decider against Ireland in Dublin on March 18 following hot on the heels of the Scotland match.

Vunipola's elder brother Mako also played 72 minutes against Newcastle after being released by England in a bid to gain more match time having come off the bench midway through the second half of last weekend's 36-15 win over Italy at Twickenham.

Other possible changes for the Triple Crown clash could see Ben Youngs restored to the role of starting scrumhalf in place of Danny Care, with Jonathan Joseph back in the centres at the expense of Ben Te'o.  

England coach Eddie Jones is not adverse to kidding the media, but both Vunipola brothers were included in his 24-man squad named Tuesday, although the Australian is not due to name the team to play Scotland until Thursday.

Back row forward Jack Clifford has been dropped, but wing Anthony Watson - fit following a hamstring injury - was included and could be named on the bench instead of Jonny May.

England could retain the Six Nations title if they beat Scotland and Wales defeat Ireland in Cardiff on Friday.

Victory against a Scotland side who last won at Twickenham back in 1983, would see England equal world champions New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test wins by a leading or 'tier one'  nation.

Agence France-Presse

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