LONDON (AP) — Billy Vunipola was called up by England for the first time since the 2021 Six Nations as the solution to the team's crisis at No. 8 for next month’s rugby tour to Australia.
Injuries to Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds opened the door for Vunipola to make the 36-man touring party to face the Wallabies over three tests, starting in Perth on July 2.
Vunipola was knocked out in the closing stages of the English Premiership final on Saturday — his Saracens team was beaten by Leicester — and England coach Eddie Jones suggested he might not be able to tour because of the head injury.
However, Vunipola is selected as the only specialist No. 8 in the squad and is set to compete with Tom Curry for the jersey.
Dombrandt was ruled out of the tour with a knee injury sustained in training on Friday. He was seen in a knee brace during England’s 52-21 loss to the Barbarians on Sunday.
Prop Joe Marler and scrumhalf Ben Youngs were notable absentees from the squad that will depart for Australia on Tuesday. Veteran scrumhalf Danny Care was present, though, as he moves closer to winning his first cap since 2018. He came on as a replacement against the Barbarians.
“Though we have 10 players unavailable due to injury, we have picked a very strong squad capable of winning the series,” 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."
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