Hard for Jones to rest Vunipola despite demands
REACTION: It is less than a week after Eddie Jones named his 31-man England World Cup squad, and he is already pushed to his limits regarding his back row.
With Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Mark Wilson all nursing injuries, Jones has been forced to field Courtney Lawes at blindside flank. This is not something that the Australian is averse to doing, as either Lawes or Maro Itoje have been deployed as flanks under Jones a lot during his tenure, despite both predominantly being locks.
What is stranger is his choice to use hooker Jack Singleton as the reserve back-row in the squad, which is perhaps an indication that he is already stretched. But in warm-ups this is a chance to try new things out, and this decision may turn out to be a stroke of genius, which, to be fair, he has come up with a few during his time in charge with England (Owen Farrell moving to inside centre being one of them).
A back row of Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Billy Vunipola looks formidable, filled with speed, power and physicality in defence, but a number of fans on social media want Vunipola to sit out this game.
One of the main purposes of warm-up matches is for players to find form, and Vunipola proved last week in his Man of the Match performance that he is already in superb nick. For a player that has suffered with multiple injuries over the past couple of seasons, and is so integral to the England team, fans would rather he is rested for what is set to be an attritional game against Wales.
The problem for Jones is that it is hard to see who he can replace Vunipola with for this match. While Wilson is presumably in the squad as No.8 cover, he is unavailable for this match, meaning it is almost a necessity for the Saracen to play. This has been a concern for some fans so far, as the likes of Nathan Hughes or Alex Dombrandt have not been selected, meaning there is a huge amount expected from England’s incumbent eight.
Should he be fit, most would imagine that Wilson will start against Ireland at Twickenham for the next test, as Jones will want to test his team without the world-class Vunipola, should the situation arise in Japan.
This is what has been said:
Why risk Billy against a wounded Wales team seeking revenge? We know he’s match fit, he’s a test animal! Surely we need to see how to play without him?
— Jonathan Lloyd (@JL4376) August 15, 2019
Unnecessary risk with Billy surely? @WelshRugbyUnion will be out for revenge in front of home crowd.
— Andrew Dee (@andrewdee03) August 15, 2019
— Ruben Steyne (@kihumuroruben) August 15, 2019
My only worry about this squad though is that B.Vunipola is getting a lot of playing time. Would rather see him rested after his monstrous display saturday. Assumption is he will play 80 against Ireland too. I expect Wilson will play 8 against Italy.
— For Rucks Sake (@RucksSake) August 15, 2019
Itoje, Vunipola, Farrell and Daly should be wrapped in cotton wool until the World Cup
— JC (@joffconnell) August 15, 2019
Wales experienced the dangers of the warm-up tests last weekend, as Gareth Anscombe sustained a World Cup-ending knee injury. But the reality is that players need to play in these games to ensure they are in peak form and condition come the World Cup. The southern hemisphere sides are going hammer and tong against each other currently, and northern hemisphere sides will not want to be caught out cold come September.
By Josh Raisey