Borthwick plays down whiteboard revelations

England have denied they have given Scotland an advantage heading into Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash by unwittingly offering an insight into their team selection.

Billy Vunipola, left, is expected to replace Nathan Hughes, right, as England's No 8 against Scotland. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

A photograph of two whiteboards positioned at the side of the training pitch at the squad’s Surrey training base on Tuesday morning revealed what appeared to be the starting XV for the Twickenham showdown.

The line-up showed four changes to the side which dispatched Italy in England’s last RBS Six Nations match, the most significant of which is Billy Vunipola’s return at 
No 8 in place of Nathan Hughes after three months out due to knee surgery.

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In what would be a return to Eddie Jones’ strongest team, scrum-half Ben Youngs, centre Jonathan Joseph and wing Jack Nowell are recalled alongside Vunipola.

The whiteboard also displayed some tactical notes beneath the words “Beat Scotland”, including “Play From LO (Maul)” in reference to driving off the lineout.

Forwards coach Steve Borthwick, however, insists the information revealed is not especially valuable.

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

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

Vunipola completed 72 minutes of his comeback match for Saracens against Newcastle last Sunday and England will welcome back their most dangerous ball-carrier, who has been sorely missed so far in this Six Nations.

“Billy looks in very good shape and has worked tremendously hard,” Borthwick said.

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

Scotland have not prevailed at Twickenham since 1983, but, after strong victories over Ireland and Wales, confidence is running high.

“Scotland are a good team. We had a great week’s preparation in Oxford last weekend and the first half of this week has so far been excellent,” Borthwick said.

“We will have to be at our best playing against them. They have some real strengths in their pack and across their team. They’re a smart team.”