Monday 24 July 2017

England confirm bulldozing back row Billy Vunipola will make Six Nations return this weekend

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Billy Vunipola of England runs with the ball during the Old Mutual Wealth Series match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Billy Vunipola of England runs with the ball during the Old Mutual Wealth Series match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on November 26, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Duncan Bech

England have confirmed that Billy Vunipola will be unleashed upon Scotland in Saturday's Calcutta Cup showdown at Twickenham.

Vunipola marked his comeback after three months out with a knee injury by playing 72 minutes of Saracens' Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle on Sunday, demonstrating his fitness in time for the final two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations.

England have sorely missed their most dangerous ball carrier since he ruptured ligaments in the joint last autumn and the bulldozing number eight is poised to add his weight to the looming Triple Crown decider against the Scots.

"Billy has done enough to prove he should be involved in the squad. It's fantastic to have him back," scrum coach Neal Hatley said.

"He carried well against Newcastle and it was a good performance for a bloke who has been out for as long as he has.

"He brings a good boost to the boys, he's a likeable character so he brings a good energy to the squad. It's a confidence boost for us.

"He brings really good control at the base and is one of the top carriers around. He has real power. Defensively he hits hard because of his size and he's good over the ball."

Vunipola's challenge this week is to convince Eddie Jones he is ready to reclaim his starting place from Nathan Hughes, who has deputised for the last four Tests.

Hughes showed promise against Australia in November and has emerged as a solid enough alternative, but he has failed to set the Six Nations ablaze and Vunipola has a genuine chance of dislodging him from the back row for Scotland's visit to Twickenham.

England's Grand Slam defence concludes in Dublin on March 18, by which point they could have equalled New Zealand's record 18-Test winning run and already have retained their title.

"Nathan has gone really well. He's grown into the role. He's hit hard and carried hard. What he's done at the base has got better and better. He's played a big role for us," Hatley said.

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