Mako Vunipola: Saracens confirm England star available for selection despite self-isolation over coronavirus fears

Prop was stood down from England duty after putting himself in self-isolation upon returning from Hong Kong, only for his club to assess his health and claim he has no signs of the virus to make him available this weekend

Jack de Menezes@JackdeMenezes
Wednesday 04 March 2020 09:16
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Mako Vunipola is available to play for Saracens this weekend despite being ruled out of England’s Six Nations clash with Wales after putting himself into self-isolation due to coronavirus fears.

The baffling scenario was resulted from both Mako and Billy Vunipola, his younger brother, travelling back from Tonga via Hong Kong, where there have been 100 positive cases and two deaths caused by the global outbreak.

The pair were in the Pacific Islands due to family reasons, which saw Mako Vunipola miss the Six Nations victory over Ireland two weeks ago, while Billy is currently sidelined with a broken arm.

But after the Rugby Football Union confirmed on Tuesday that Mako will not be available for the remainder of the Six Nations championship – which is due to finish next Saturday if England’s game in Rome against Italy goes ahead – Saracens are satisfied that the loosehead prop does not have coronavirus, and have made him available for selection for the weekend’s match against Leicester Tigers after he returned to training.

A club statement on Wednesday morning read: “Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola returned to Saracens after visiting family in Tonga which included a short stop at Hong Kong Airport.

“Travellers returning from Hong Kong are not currently subject to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation unless they become symptomatic.

“Neither Billy or Mako have displayed symptoms of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) and on their return to London were assessed by the club’s medical staff.

“The duo have been around the Saracens environment for the past couple of days, with the latter available for selection this weekend.

“Saracens will continue to follow the Public Health England and World Health Organisation regulations surrounding coronavirus and the medical staff will be closely monitoring Billy and Mako on a regular basis.”

The decision raises questions over why the 29-year-old is not available for England duty this weekend, with Eddie Jones deciding against bringing Vunipola into his squad that will take on Wales in an effort to keep their championship hopes alive.

An England spokesperson said on Tuesday: “Mako Vunipola is not in the camp on medical grounds. He is not sick but it is a precaution.”

Vunipola was initially named in the squad at the start of the week, despite Jones himself saying that the prop would “probably not” be available for the Wales clash after flying to Tonga last month to be with family members. He was left out of the 27-man squad that was retained by Jones for Saturday evening’s clash, with Anthony Watson and Mark Wilson both back in the frame after returning from injury.

England squad

Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson.

Backs: Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, George Furbank, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.

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