Timely Vunipola return boosts England

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 15:52
Large billy vunipola celebrates 800

INJURY UPDATE: Billy Vunipola is set to return from injury for Saracens earlier than expected, which could also benefit England's bid to win successive Grand Slams.

The Saracens No.8 has recovered from knee ligament damage suffered in November three weeks ahead of schedule and has been drafted straight into the starting XV for the English and European champions' Premiership clash away to Newcastle on Sunday.

If the back-row forward comes through the match at Kingston Park unscathed, he could be in line to feature in England's Six Nations match against Scotland at Twickenham on March 11 and a possible title-decider against Ireland in Dublin the following week.

"I'm really excited to be back out there this weekend. I'm feeling refreshed, the body feels great and I'm ready for what will be a really tough game up in Newcastle," Vunipola said.

Vunipola's elder brother Mako has also been included in Saracens' pack after being released by England in a bid to gain more match time on a weekend where there are no Six Nations fixtures.

Mako only recently returned from a knee injury of his own and, following a second-half replacement appearance in England's 36-15 win over Italy last weekend, team management felt the prop could do with more on-field time ahead of the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland. 

Anthony Watson, who could also feature for England in the final two rounds of the Six Nations, has been selected on the left wing Bath for their Premiership match against Wasps this weekend in his first appearance since suffering a hamstring problem in late January.

Billy Vunipola won the last of his 32 England caps against Argentina in November.

Since then, England have extended their winning streak to 17 Tests in a row - just one shy of New Zealand's leading-nation record of 18 in a row.

Nathan Hughes has deputised at No.8 but England have undoubtedly missed the sheer ball-carrying power of the 24-year-old Billy Vunipola.

Having him fit and raring to go at a time when many loose forwards are starting to feel the effects of a tough campaign, would be a boost as Eddie Jones, the England coach, acknowledged last Friday.

"It's pretty positive," said Jones. "We're working with Saracens to see when he's going to be available to play. 

"We haven't written off him playing in the Six Nations. He's looking fit," the Australian added.   

Agence France-Presse

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Sat, 18 November 2017
Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints 12h00 Sixways
Italy v Argentina 13h00 Florence
Leicester Tigers v Sale Sharks 14h00 Welford Road
Wales v Georgia 14h30 Cardiff
England v Australia 15h00 Twickenham
Wasps v Newcastle Falcons 15h30 Ricoh Arena
Ireland v Fiji 16h30 Aviva Stadium
Scotland v New Zealand 17h15 Edinburgh
France v South Africa 19h45 Paris
Sun, 19 November 2017
Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins 14h00 Sandy Park
Leicester Tigers v Bath 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Fri, 24 November 2017
Ospreys v Glasgow Warriors 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Ulster v Treviso 18h05 Kingspan Stadium
Leinster v Dragons 18h35 RDS Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Connacht 18h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester 18h45 Kingston Park
Leicester Tigers v Worcester Warriors 18h45 Welford Road
Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints 19h00 AJ Bell Stadium
RESULT SCORE
Fri, 17 November 2017
Gloucester v Saracens 23 | 17
Tue, 14 November 2017
France XV v New Zealand 23 | 28
Sat, 11 November 2017
France v New Zealand 18 | 38
Ireland v South Africa 38 | 3
Wales v Australia 21 | 29
England v Argentina 21 | 8
Scotland v Samoa 44 | 38
Italy v Fiji 19 | 10
Sat, 04 November 2017
Cardiff Blues v Zebre 37 | 8
Connacht v Cheetahs 23 | 15
Edinburgh v Ospreys 37 | 10
Barbarians v New Zealand 22 | 31
Kings v Ulster 36 | 43
Japan v Australia 30 | 63
Fri, 03 November 2017
Scarlets v Treviso 20 | 8
SIX NATIONS
MORE LOGS
Team P W D L Pts
England 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0
France 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0