Thursday 22 February 2018

Leaked: England's Billy Vunipola set to start against Scotland

England's Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes during training
England's Billy Vunipola and Nathan Hughes during training

Duncan Bech

Billy Vunipola appears to have won an immediate recall to England's starting XV after a picture emerged from training that hinted at the line-up for Saturday's Calcutta Cup showdown with Scotland.

Two whiteboards positioned at the side of the pitch at the RBS 6 Nations champions' Surrey training base displayed the formations for Tuesday morning's session, indicating that Vunipola is pencilled in at number eight in place of Nathan Hughes.

The bulldozing back row made his comeback after three months out with a knee injury in Saracens' victory over Newcastle on Sunday and England have already stated he will feature in the 23 against Scotland.

Eddie Jones names his team for the Triple Crown decider on Thursday morning, offering plenty of time to finalise his plans, but there appears to be three more changes in the pipeline.

Jack Nowell looks set to displace Jonny May from the right wing as reward for his two-try salvo as a second-half replacement in the 36-15 victory over Italy, with Elliot Daly retained on the opposite wing.

Jonathan Joseph seems to have been recalled at outside centre, forcing Ben Te'o back on to the bench, and Ben Youngs is shaping up to be restored at scrum-half after Danny Care started against the Azzurri.

While the team will not be announced until Thursday morning, the outlined changes represent England's strongest available starting XV.

Jones has proved to be conservative in selection so far during the flawless run of 16 Test victories that constitute his reign as head coach, and it will be no surprise if he avoids any risks against a resurgent Scotland.

The Scots have not prevailed at Twickenham since 1983 but wins over Ireland and Wales have raised expectations that a dismal 34 years of failure could finally draw to a close when the rivals collide on Saturday.

England could seal the title if they dispatch Vern Cotter's men and Wales beat Ireland on Friday evening, with victory also equalling New Zealand's record of 18 successive Test wins.

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