The 25-year-old broke his left arm during Sunday’s 13-3 victory over Glasgow Warriors, having fractured his right arm twice this year, and it continues a horrendous run of luck over the last two seasons that has seen him struggle with shoulder, knee and arm injuries.
With the latest blow ruling Vunipola out until January, the No 8 will miss next month’s tests against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Argentina, and he is likely to be short on match fitness when the Six Nations gets underway on 2 February – providing he recovers in time.
Writing to his followers on Instagram, Vunipola said: “I’ll be back, I won’t be bigger I won’t be better I’ll just be back! This ones cut me though.”
Vunipola broke his right arm in January just two games into his return from knee surgery and suffered recurrence of the fracture during the summer tour of South Africa, which required surgery and kept him sidelined for the start of this season.
Having shown early signs of getting back to his imposing best in recent outings, the 25-year-old was forced off in the 52nd minute of Sunday’s victory at Scotstoun.
The news is not only desperately sad for Vunipola but also impacts England head coach Eddie Jones, who has been unable to call on Vunipola for large periods of his reign in charge.
It leaves Jones short on experienced No 8s to select for the four autumn internationals against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia as Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Simmonds is already absent through injury, while Wasps’ Nathan Hughes is facing a lengthy ban when his disciplinary hearing resumes on Wednesday.
In his absence, Zach Mercer could be in line to win his first Test cap against the Springboks after being included in the recent England training camp. The Bath back-row made his one and only England senior appearance in the defeat against the Barbarians last May, but appears to be ahead of the likes of Gloucester’s Ben Morgan, who has not featured with England since Jones took charge in 2016.
The bad news for England did not stop with Billy Vunipola, with elder brother Mako Vunipola suffering a calf strain that saw him leave Allianz Park on crutches with his left foot in a protective boot. Saracens will monitor the loosehead prop in the coming days before determining how long any lay-off will be, but the diagnosis is at least better than first feared.
With Joe Marler retiring from international duty and the likes of Ellis Genge and Beno Obano on the long-term injury list, England are already short on reserves at loosehead without Vunipola being crocked, and Jones will hope to receive some good news from the club ahead of Thursday’s squad announcement for the autumn internationals.
Saracens also confirmed that Nick Isiekwe suffered an ankle sprain in the win at Scotsoun and will also be monitored, while both Maro Itoke and Jamie George suffered broken noses but are not feared to be facing long spells out. Owen Farrell’s knock to his knee is not thought to be serious either.
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