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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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 28 April 2017
Highlanders v Stormers 07h35 Dunedin
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 18h05 Cardiff
Edinburgh v Dragons 18h35 Myreside
Leinster v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 RDS Arena
Newcastle Falcons v Worcester Warriors 19h00 Kingston Park
Sat, 29 April 2017
Chiefs v Sunwolves 07h35 Hamilton
Reds v Waratahs 09h45 Suncorp Stadium
Force v Lions 11h55 Perth
Ospreys v Ulster 14h00 Liberty Stadium
Bath v Gloucester 14h00 Recreation Ground
Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints 14h00 Sandy Park
Saracens v Bristol 14h00 Allianz Park
Harlequins v Wasps 14h00 Twickenham Stoop
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Cheetahs v Crusaders 15h15 Bloemfontein
Treviso v Munster 17h05 Stadio Monigo
Kings v Rebels 17h30 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Connacht v Scarlets 18h35 Sportsground
Jaguares v Sharks 19h40 Buenos Aires
Sun, 30 April 2017
Brumbies v Blues 06h05 Canberra
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 23 April 2017
Clermont Auvergne v Leinster 27 | 22
Sat, 22 April 2017
Sharks v Rebels 9 | 9
Bulls v Cheetahs 20 | 14
Munster v Saracens 10 | 26
Force v Chiefs 7 | 16
Crusaders v Stormers 57 | 24
Highlanders v Sunwolves 40 | 15
Fri, 21 April 2017
Lions v Jaguares 24 | 21
Waratahs v Kings 24 | 26
Hurricanes v Brumbies 56 | 21
Mon, 17 April 2017
UP-Tuks v Maties 28 | 21
Sun, 16 April 2017
Bristol v Wasps 21 | 36
Northampton Saints v Saracens 25 | 27
Sat, 15 April 2017
Connacht v Leinster 24 | 37
Treviso v Edinburgh 21 | 6
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 5 4 0 1 19
Ireland 5 3 0 2 14
France 5 3 0 2 14
Scotland 5 3 0 2 14
Wales 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 0