England haven't given Scotland an early Calcutta Cup advantage with team leak, insists Steve Borthwick

The team to face Scotland on Saturday appeared to be leaked this week with Billy Vunipola poised to return to the starting line-up

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Steve Borthwick insists that the revelation of England’s tactics, including what appears to be their starting line-up for this weekend’s Six Nations clash with Scotland, will have no impact whatsoever on the match, despite it looking like Billy Vunipola will be thrown straight back into the firing line after recovering from injury.

Vunipola has played just 72 minutes of competitive rugby this year after suffering damaged knee ligaments in the autumn international victory over Argentina last November, but his name was a notable inclusion on a tactics board that was photographed next to the England training pitch at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday.

While the prospect of the team being a dummy line-up in order to throw off the Scots has also been raised, it would prove surprising given that the rest of the side showed that head coach Eddie Jones will revert to his strongest line-up that is bidding to win an 18th consecutive match when they play the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham this weekend, a run that would match the current world record streak held by New Zealand.

Along with the team – which showed that Ben Youngs, Jonathan Joseph and Jack Nowell are also in the frame to return to the start of the game – the board also has “Play from LO (maul)” written on it, suggesting that England have already identified the Scottish set-piece as a vulnerability that they can expose.

But the England forwards coach, Steve Borthwick, dismissed the possibility of Scotland taking an early advantage from the apparent tactics lead.

"There's nothing significant in it at all,” Borthwick said. “In training we go through all different kinds of permutations, different combinations of players.

"As coaches, we like to watch players together, to see what works well."

England have already confirmed that Vunipola will feature this weekend after being named in the 24-man squad retained by Jones for their penultimate match of the Six Nations championship. Despite playing less than a full match in nearly four months, Vunipola has impressed both with the England camp as well as with Saracens, having made his return in his club’s 35-27 Premiership victory over Newcastle Falcons last Sunday.

Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes has deputised for Vunipola in his absence, but he has not had the same impact that the Saracens back-row gave England in 2016, and his return to the starting line-up would be a major boost to England’s chances against an in-form Scotland.

"Billy looks in very good shape and has worked tremendously hard," Borthwick added.

"In him and Nathan we have two fantastically powerful number eights who give us options in the position."

England know that they can win the Six Nations title this weekend by beating Scotland if Wales defeat Ireland on Friday, and could even take the title if the contest in Cardiff finishes in a low-scoring draw should they clinch a bonus-point victory over the Scots, with the trip to Dublin next weekend a potential Grand Slam decider that could also see England break the All Blacks’ record for the most wins in a row.

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