Billy Vunipola has been called up to England’s squad for the Six Nations clash against Scotland on Saturday, and faces a very good chance on being included in the Calcutta Cup clash after playing 72 minutes for Saracens on his return from a knee injury.
24-year-old Vunipola missed more than three months after suffering damaged knee ligaments in England’s autumn international victory over Argentina last November, but looked more than ready to return to the international stage as he came through Saracens’s 35-27 bonus-point victory over Newcastle Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Just a few hours later, Vunipola’s return to the England squad took another step closer as he was named in a 30-man squad that joined up at Pennyhill Park on Sunday to train ahead of the resumption of the Six Nations next weekend.
Scotland’s Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor also appeared to come through the game unscathed, with the former missing the start of the Six Nations with a rib injury and the latter continuing his comeback from an ankle injury that kept him out of the first half of the season.
The England head coach, Eddie Jones, has also named Anthony Watson in his enlarged training squad after the Bath wing played in their 24-3 defeat by Premiership leaders Wasps on Sunday. Watson has not played for England since last summer, having missed the autumn internationals with a broken jaw suffered in training with the international side and also missed the Six Nations victories over France, Wales and Italy.
Jones did not have any injury concerns on his hands after the 36-15 victory over Italy last weekend, with the head coach claiming his “haven’t played any rugby” meaning the clash was considerably less physical than his side have come to expect in the international stage.
Teimana Harrison, Mike Williams, Tom Wood, Alex Lozowski and Marland Yarde have also joined up with the squad, but face the prospect of being released back to their clubs for the weekend unless there are any injury concerns among Jones’s squad as England look to maintain their 100 per cent record under the Australian.
England vs Italy player ratings
England vs Italy player ratings
1/15 England: Mike Brown – 5 out of 10
Left on his heels when Michele Campagnaro broke through the line, but started to show signs of his running best in the second half that he hasn’t shown for quite some time.
2/15 Jonny May – 4 out of 10
Failed to take a Ben Te’o offload in the first half when through on the try line, and faded from that point on as England struggled to figure out how to get the ball out wide.
3/15 Ben Te'o – 7 out of 10
When he got the chance to run with the ball he was impressive, taking a crash ball through the line and bagging his second try as the game began to unravel. Showed some nice offloads and also effective in the tackle.
4/15 Owen Farrell – 4 out of 10
In what was supposed to be a celebration of his 50th cap, Farrell put in possibly his worst performance in an England shirt. Twice he committed the cardinal sin of missing touch from a penalty and kicking the ball dead, and he also struggled with the swirling wind inside Twickenham as he missed a penalty and three conversions. He also got away with a questionable hit on Edoardo Gori to put him out of the game.
5/15 Elliot Daly – 7 out of 10
Displayed his pace once again to bag his second try in as many matches and was unlikely not to double up after impressive defending from Carlo Canna saw the replacement fly-half kick the ball out from under Daly’s hand. He also did his defensive work well, helping to force a knock-on in a maul on the England try line.
6/15 George Ford – 5 out of 10
He will rarely see less of the ball thanks to the Italian defenders. His kick down the line nearly produced a try for Daly, but he fell short defensively when Campagnaro ran over him on his way to scoring.
7/15 Danny Care – 6 out of 10
Sparked the England fightback into life with his quick tap and go to score in the corner after catching the Italian defence asleep. He was also the first to counter the Italian defence by running through the middle of the ruck.
8/15 Joe Marler – 6 out of 10
The English front-row struggled early on but that wasn’t any of Marler’s doing as he stood firm. Went through the motions a bit when it came to carrying, and was withdrawn in the 55th minute for the returning Mako Vunipola who made a notable impact in the scrum and the loose.
9/15 Dylan Hartley – 5 out of 10
Asking referee Romain Poite what England need to do to ruck wasn’t a high point, but his lineout was exemplary. Questions about whether Jamie George should come into the side won’t go away yet though.
10/15 Dan Cole – 5 out of 10
A game of mixed fortunes for the tighthead, and he conceded two penalties inside a minute in the first half before scoring England’s opening try. He also struggled early in the scrum, with Lovotti managing to turn him in twice to win penalties.
11/15 Joe Launchbury – 7 out of 10
One of those who led Plan B in the second half as he took on the carrying duty from the base to try force Italy into retreat. Appears to be excelling with each game that goes by.
12/15 Courtney Lawes – 6 out of 10
Carried well once again and put in a big hit on Allan to shake up the fly-half, but as England struggled to find ways of securing clean ball, his impact faded.
13/15 Maro Itoje – 7 out of 10
Two steals in the lineout helped disrupt the Italian set-piece and he also imposed in defence, with one big hit on Venditti setting the tone early in the second half as England got back on the gas.
14/15 James Haskell – 6 out of 10
Given it’s his first international start for eight months, it’s hard to over-analyse the flanker. One knock-on wasn’t his fault given it was a poor pass from Care, but his conversation about the laws of the game will not be one for the highlight reel.
15/15 Nathan Hughes – 7 out of 10
Another to endure a mixed game as he combined powerful running and tackling with conceding two penalties at the breakdown and also dropped the ball in an early counter attack.
England squad to train this week:
Jack Clifford (Harlequins)
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
James Haskell (Wasps)
Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Mike Williams (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Elliot Daly (Wasps)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Marland Yarde (Harlequins)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)Reuse content