Billy Vunipola’s Test-calibre performance in final sealed England recall, Eddie Jones reveals

Vunipola has been included in a 36-man touring party after injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds created depleted options at number eight

<p>Vunipola excelled against Leicester at Twickenham </p>

Vunipola excelled against Leicester at Twickenham

Billy Vunipola sealed his recall for England’s series against Australia next month after producing what Eddie Jones viewed as a Test-calibre appearance in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final.

Vunipola has been included in a 36-man touring party after injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds created depleted options at number eight.

It is the 29-year-old’s first appearance in an England squad since winning the last of his 61 caps in the 2021 Six Nations, at which point he was part of a cull of senior players.

Saracens have benefited all season from the rampaging form of their powerful back row of Tongan heritage, but it was when he excelled against Leicester in a narrow defeat at Twickenham that Jones was truly convinced.

He was knocked out in the closing stages but has been cleared to reclaim the number eight jersey – with Tom Curry the alternative – when the series begins in Perth on Saturday week.

“Billy needed to find his best. He wasn’t at his best in the last Six Nations he played with us, he was a bit up and down,” Jones said.

“I asked him to go away and find his best and I think that consistently for Saracens he has been close to that. In the final he was exceptional, he looked like a Test number eight.

“We’ve been in regular contact. I would go and see him before each selection and have a chat about where he was at. I value him highly as a player but he wasn’t at his best. He has found his best now and deserves to be back in the team.”

Danny Care is on course to make his Test comeback in Australia as one of three scrum-halves included in the touring party, almost four years after winning the last of his 84 caps.

But three notable senior players are missing in Ben Youngs, Joe Marler and Elliot Daly, while Max Malins continues to be frozen out after being dropped during the Six Nations.

Youngs has recently experienced family tragedy with the death of Tiffany Youngs, the wife of his elder brother Tom, but other omissions were purely selection based.

“We’ve decided to rest Youngs. It’s in his best interests at the moment to rest him. Both Marler and Davy aren’t selected but we’ve chatted to them about what they need to do,” Jones said.

Danny Care could make his first England appearance in four years against Australia (Mike Egerton/PA)

Eight uncapped players have been named in the squad in Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, Guy Porter, Patrick Schickerling, Jack Van Poortvliet, Jack Walker, Henry Arundell and Will Joseph.

Arundell and Joseph have been designated ‘apprentice players’ with Arundell in particular generating excitement after scoring several eye-catching tries for London Irish and England Under-20s.

“Henry has a lot to like, but the next step is the big step. To go from a part-time club player to a fully-fledged international is a big step,” Jones said.

“He’s taking good steps towards it, he has a good attitude. He works hard and has been learning from senior players. Luckily he has a guy like Jonny May to learn from, an ultimate professional.”

There are 10 survivors from England’s last tour to Australia in 2016 when Jones masterminded a 3-0 series whitewash – Vunipola, Care, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Owen Farrell, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Jack Nowell and Mako Vunipola.

Jones revealed that he would name his captain in the week of the first Test.

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