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England prop Mako Vunipola retires from international rugby ahead of Six Nations

Vunipola toured three times with the British and Irish Lions and was an England regular for more than a decade

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 12 January 2024 16:23 GMT
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Mako Vunipola was part of three Six Nations-winning England sides
Mako Vunipola was part of three Six Nations-winning England sides (Getty Images)

England prop Mako Vunipola has announced his international retirement in another potential blow to Steve Borthwick ahead of the Six Nations.

Loosehead Vunipola last featured in an England shirt against Ireland last March, and missed the World Cup after suffering a back injury.

His prospects of a return were boosted with all three of Borthwick’s World Cup looseheads currently injured, though Ellis Genge could be fit for England’s opener against Italy in Rome.

And any chance of a recall has been ruled out by the 32-year-old Vunipola, who has confirmed that he will be stepping away from international rugby.

“It’s been an honour to have represented my country but all good things must come to an end,” Saracens’ Vunipola said in a post on Instagram. “The time has come to step away now.

“There have been lots of highs and lows. [I] would love to thank everyone who have helped me along the way.

“To my wife Alex, thank you for taking care of our family and all your support. Words don’t do it justice. To my parents I’m eternally grateful for all you have sacrificed for me to be here.”

Vunipola made his England debut in 2012 and appeared 79 times for his country, regularly starting alongside younger brother Billy, including the 2019 Rugby World Cup final defeat against South Africa.

Mako Vunipola has retired from international rugby (PA Archive)

He toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2013, 2017 and 2021, and was part of three Six Nations-winning England teams.

England head coach Borthwick has been boosted by the news that Genge is on track to return for the start of the campaign as he prepares to name his squad for the championship on Wednesday.

The prop is a possible captaincy candidate with Owen Farrell absent and Bristol Bears coach Pat Lam said that he was “right on track” with his recovery from a hamstring injury.

Joe Marler will, however, miss Harlequins’ trip to Cardiff with an arm issue, and both Bevan Rodd and Val Rapava-Ruskin are longer-term absentees.

Northampton’s Tarek Haffar and Phil Brantingham of Newcastle are among those on the radar of Borthwick as he considers his loosehead options. Young Sale prop Asher Opoku-Fordjour is also understood to be viewed as a loosehead by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), despite a number of eye-catching cameos at tighthead this season.

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