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Billy Vunipola recalled for England tour to Australia as Eddie Jones names eight uncapped players in 36-man squad
Billy Vunipola recalled for England tour to Australia as Eddie Jones names eight uncapped players
Injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds have opened the door for Vunipola to make his first international appearance since last year’s Six Nations.
The 29-year-old had not appeared in an England squad until Jones named his 36-man touring party to face the Wallabies over three Tests, starting in Perth on Saturday week.
Vunipola was knocked out in the closing stages of Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final defeat by Leicester and a day later Jones suggested he would not be able to tour because of the head injury. He will compete with Tom Curry for the number eight jersey.
Joe Marler and Ben Youngs are notable absentees from the group that will depart for Australia on Tuesday, but veteran scrum-half Danny Care is present as he nudges closer to winning his first cap since 2018.
London Irish’s 19-year-old sensation Henry Arundell has been included after missing Sunday’s rout by the Barbarians because of a muscle strain, although he has been denoted as an ‘apprentice player’.
England won all three matches in Australia to complete a series whitewash back in 2016.
Jones' and co head Down Under on the back of a disappointing Six Nations campaign and a humiliating defeat to the Barbarians at Twickenham.
Notable injury absentees include Henry Slade (shoulder), Manu Tuilagi (knee) and Sam Simmonds (hip).
Kyle Sinckler (back) are all unavailable, Louis Lynagh, George Furbank, Anthony Watson (all calf), Alex Dombrandt (knee) and George Ford (ankle) are also unavailable.
The eight uncapped players in the squad are Patrick Schickerling of Exeter Chiefs, London Irish duo Henry Arundell and Will Joseph, Northampton Saints' Fraser Dingwall and Tommy Freeman, Leicester Tigers' Guy Porter and Jack van Poortvliet, along with Jack Walker of Harlequins.
“Though we have 10 players unavailable due to injury, we have picked a very strong squad capable of winning the series,” head coach Jones said.
“This squad is a real mix of young, talented players and some very experienced, senior players and we’re looking forward to bringing the group together.
“This tour will be a great experience for the group and a crucial part of the team’s work towards the World Cup in 2023. We will continue to develop the base of the squad and how we want to play.
“We’ve put a lot of work into preparation for the tour over the past few weeks but now the hard work really begins when we finally get the squad on the plane and to Australia.”
Jones revealed he decided to bring Vunipola back into the England fold after the number eight's performance in last weekend's Gallagher Premiership final.
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.
“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.