Billy Vunipola returns to start for Saracens and open door to feature in England vs Scotland Six Nations clash

Vunipola has not played since the end of November after suffering damaged knee ligaments

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Billy Vunipola has been named in the starting line-up by Saracens for Sunday’s Premiership trip to Newcastle, opening the door for en England return in their Six Nations clash against Scotland next weekend.

The 24-year-old No 8 was not expected to return in time to feature in the Six Nations when he damaged knee ligaments in last November’s autumn international victory over Argentina, though England head coach Eddie Jones suggested he could make his comeback from injury in time for the final weekend trip to Dublin.

However, Vunipola now looks in line to play some part in next weekend’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham with Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall selecting him alongside brother Mako Vunipola for this weekend’s Premiership encounter.

Having recovered from a knee injury of his own, Mako Vunipola returned to England duty in last weekend’s 36-15 victory over Italy, albeit from the replacements’ bench, and should he come through the clash with the Falcons, younger brother Billy can expect the same treatment next weekend given that Nathan Hughes has been England’s regular No 8 for the Six Nations in Vunipola’s absence.

But while England will look to Vunipola to add some much-needed penetration in their pack, Scotland have received a boost of their own. Vunipola will line up in the Saracens side next to Duncan Taylor and Sean Maitland, who are both on the road back from injury and could also feature in the Calcutta Cup clash.

Taylor has played the Saracens’ last two matches after recovering from an ankle injury picked up last summer that delayed the start to his season until February, while Maitland returns after suffering a rib injury in the round 15 defeat by Gloucester to start on the wing, having missed Scotland’s opening three Six Nations matches.