Mako Vunipola has been cleared to play for Saracens this weekend despite having been stood down by England on "medical grounds".

The powerhouse prop was said to have been in self-isolation as a precaution against the coronavirus, having briefly travelled through Hong Kong en route home from a trip to visit family in Tonga.

However, Sarries insisted Mako and his brother Billy have not been subjected to self-quarantine and neither showed any symptoms linked to the coronavirus.

As such, Mako is available for selection when Sarries face Leicester Tigers in the Premiership on Saturday despite having been ruled out of England's game against Wales.

"Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola returned to Saracens after visiting family in Tonga, which included a short stop at Hong Kong Airport," a Sarries statement read.

"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."

Mako, who missed England's win over Ireland due to his visit to Tonga, was included in an initial training squad ahead of the crunch Twickenham encounter against Wales by head coach Eddie Jones.

However, on Tuesday an RFU spokesperson said: "Mako is not in camp on medical grounds. He is not sick but it is a precaution."

Wales are hopeful Dan Biggar will be fit to face England in the Six Nations on Saturday and Liam Williams is set to make his first appearance of the tournament.

Biggar suffered a knee injury during Northampton Saints' Premiership defeat to Saracens last weekend.

The fly-half is on course to play at Twickenham, though, as the defending champions attempt to stop the rot after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Ireland and France.

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton, working as a breakdown specialist in Wayne Pivac's set-up, said of Biggar: "He's looking good.

"The initial signs are positive. He doesn't need a scan. It puts our team selection on hold for a while because we have to wait to see how he turns up tomorrow.

"He's going to train and do stuff with the physios. But everyday so far, the feedback from the physios has been good, he's had a really good response to the stages of physio.

"He's ticking all the boxes he needs to. He's on a good course so, hopefully, with no hiccups, we'll have some good news. There are no guarantees but we're confident at this stage.

"There's a hurdle every day, the training becomes gradually more intense and will climax towards the end of the week. So if he can pass that, then all good. We're taking it day by day but the first two days have been all good.

"I don't know to be honest but I think we'll have a conclusive answer by Friday morning."

Williams has not played since suffering an ankle injury at the Rugby World Cup, but the full-back is poised to face the Red Rose.

Warburton said: "He’s back in full training. He will hopefully be in contention to start.

"This is the sort of cauldron he would love to be thrown into. It will be great to have some big game players back."

Wing Hallam Amos will definitely not feature after he was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

Mako Vunipola's absence for England's Six Nations clash against Wales is because he is in self-isolation as a precaution against the coronavirus, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed.

The powerhouse prop was named in a 34-man squad for the Twickenham encounter but was ruled out by forwards coach Matt Proudfoot on "medical reasons" on Wednesday.

It was later confirmed Vunipola did not come into camp as he travelled back from Tonga via Hong Kong at the weekend.

An RFU spokesperson said: "Mako is not in camp on medical grounds. He is not sick but it is a precaution."

Vunipola was missing from England's superb victory over Ireland last time out as he travelled to Tonga for family reasons.

Travellers who have been in areas where the coronavirus has been prevalent have been advised to self-isolate, meaning Vunipola may also be a doubt for England's Six Nations sign-off against Italy on March 14.

Six Nations organisers said this week the intention is for all fixtures to be completed, with Ireland's Dublin contest against Italy, which was due to take place this weekend, having been postponed.

Mako Vunipola is unavailable for England 's crunch Six Nations clash against Wales, who have confirmed Hallam Amos could miss the rest of the season.

Saracens prop Vunipola was absent for England's win over Ireland last time out as he was in Tonga for family reasons.

While Vunipola was named in a 34-man squad on Monday to prepare for Wales at Twickenham, he will not now be involved in the fixture due to a medical problem.

Speaking to Sky Sports, England's forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said: "He's not with us due to medical reasons.

"I won't say injury, it's medical reasons, yeah [he's unavailable]."

Wales, meanwhile, confirmed Amos is to undergo surgery on a knee injury sustained playing in Cardiff Blues' Pro14 victory over Benetton Treviso on February 23.

A Welsh Rugby Union statement revealed it is expected that the wing will also miss the remainder of the campaign.

Six Nations organisers say all remaining fixtures in the tournament will go ahead but the situation will continue to be monitored amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

The round-four clash between Ireland and Italy in Dublin, due to be played this weekend, was postponed last Wednesday in the interest of public health, but the match is due to be rearranged.

No further games have been cancelled following a Six Nations meeting in Paris on Monday.

England's final-weekend trip to Rome to face Italy is schedule to go ahead as planned, but the women's and Under-20 showdowns in Padua and Verona respectively may be relocated.

A Six Nations statement said: "The Six Nations met today in Paris to address the current situation regarding the Covid-19 Virus.

"Six Nations and its six unions and federations are following the situation very closely with their respective governments and relevant health authorities and will strictly follow any directive given that would impact sporting events.

"As it stands today, based on the latest information, all Six Nations matches currently scheduled are set to go ahead.  

"Six Nations is in contact with FIR and RFU regarding the possibility of relocating the Women's and U20 Italy vs England matches to another Italian location and we will make a further announcement on this in due course.

"However, the Italy vs England Senior Men's match in Rome is planned to go ahead as scheduled.

"Six Nations intends to complete all 15 games across all three championships when time allows but we will refrain from making any rescheduling announcements for the time being while we keep assessing the situation."

Mako Vunipola has returned to the England squad for Saturday's crucial Six Nations clash with Wales.

The prop had not been expected to be part of Eddie Jones' squad for the Twickenham encounter, having missed England's win over Ireland after travelling to Tonga to visit a seriously ill relative.

However, he is included in Jones' 34-man party as England begin preparations for the visit of Wayne Pivac's team.

Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Jack Maunder has been selected, giving Jones a third option at number nine behind Ben Youngs and Will Heinz, while wing Anthony Watson and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie were also named in the squad.

England bounced back from their opening-round defeat to France with victories over Scotland and Ireland.

They trail leaders France - who face Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday - by four points and know defeat to Wales could spell the end of their hopes of regaining the Six Nations title.

Anthony Watson could feature for England for the first time in the 2020 Six Nations after he was named in Eddie Jones' squad for their training camp ahead of next week's clash with Wales.

Watson is yet to appear in this year's championship due to a calf injury, but head coach Jones suggested after the victory over Ireland that the wing could soon return.

"Anthony's got to do a running session and if he gets through that we'll get him into camp," Jones said.

And Watson was subsequently included in a 25-man selection on Wednesday as England reconvene for three days of training in Oxford.

Mark Wilson has likewise been recalled, while George Furbank is involved for rehabilitation purposes after missing the Ireland game, as apprentice Alex Mitchell also links up.

However, both Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie were not selected due to family reasons.

Vunipola had travelled to Tonga ahead of Sunday's clash with Ireland and was not expected back in time to face Wales.

Cowan-Dickie, who scored England's third try in the 24-12 Twickenham success, had been absent previously in the campaign as his girlfriend gave birth to their son seven weeks early.

England are still in the mix for the Six Nations title, although they trail Grand Slam-chasing France by four points after three games.

Wales have confirmed Josh Adams will need surgery on the ankle injury he suffered against France, ruling the wing out for the rest of the Six Nations.

Adams was hurt during the 27-23 defeat at the Principality Stadium on Saturday and was replaced by Jarrod Evans in the 66th minute.

The 24-year-old will undergo surgery to repair the damage this week and is expected to be out for three months, meaning he will miss Wales' remaining two fixtures - against England and Scotland - in March.

In a short statement on their website, the Welsh Rugby Union said it is "envisaged" Adams, who has scored 14 tries in 24 Test appearances, will be back for the latter stages of the Pro14 season with his club, Cardiff Blues.

Head coach Wayne Pivac will now wait for an update on another of his wing options in George North, who failed a head injury assessment during the home loss to Les Bleus.

Pivac has not called up a replacement for Adams ahead of the trip to Twickenham on March 7.

Liam Williams has left Saracens to join the Scarlets with immediate effect and his Wales team-mate Rhys Webb has signed for Bath for the rest of the season.

It was announced in December that British and Irish Lions full-back Williams will return to his homeland for a second spell with the Scarlets at the end of the current campaign.

Williams, who has not played since the Rugby World Cup due to an ankle injury, has been cleared to leave the European and Premiership champions earlier than initially planned, bringing to an end a hugely successful spell in London.

The 28-year-old won two Premiership titles and the European Champions Cup during his two-and-a-half year stay with Sarries, who will play in the Championship next year due to salary-cap breaches.

Scarlets head coach Brad Mooar said: "Liam is a world-class player and man, a huge favourite at Parc y Scarlets and we are thrilled to welcome Liam and Sophie back to the Scarlets.

"To have Liam joining our exciting group of outside backs this season is superb. I’m also thrilled for Liam that his rehab is almost complete. 

"Obviously, his immediate availability for us will depend on how Wayne wants to play it during the Six Nations and we look forward to seeing Liam back at Parc y Scarlets in due course."

Webb will spend the remainder of the 2019/20 campaign with Premiership side Bath ahead of a move to Ospreys.

The scrum-half was granted an early release from his Toulon contract at the end of last year and agreed to rejoin Ospreys on a two-year deal.

Webb, who made his Wales comeback in the Six Nations defeat of Italy this month, could make his debut in the derby against Bristol Bears on March 1.

 

Wayne Pivac was unimpressed with the officiating after Wales suffered a narrow defeat to France that leaves the defending champions with only a slim chance of retaining their Six Nations title.

Romain Ntamack was the star of the show as Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff, winning a thriller 27-23 on Saturday.

Ntamack scored 17 points in a fly-half masterclass at the Principality Stadium for a France side that have won three out of three this year, putting them on track for a first Six Nations crown in a decade.

However, Wales felt they should have been awarded a penalty try by referee Matthew Carley for what they saw as a deliberate knock-on by Paul Willemse when Ken Owens attempted to set up Josh Adams in the second half.

Head coach Pivac said: "We have had a look at the slap down and I think the officials may have got that one wrong.

"That killed momentum as well."

Pivac was also aggrieved when France were awarded a penalty in a scrum as Wales applied the pressure, with prop Wyn Jones having stated this week he expected Les Bleus to "cheat" when they packed down.

"Another disappointing moment was when the French tighthead [Demba Bamba] came on and went straight across the scrum and was rewarded for that," said the New Zealander.

"Those were the big moments in the game. The scrums, from our point of view, had gone okay up until that point.

"You have got to go with the forward motion but he clearly went across the scrum."

Pivac said wings George North and Adams will be checked over after suffering head and ankle injuries respectively, with Wales having games against England and Scotland in March.

"George will go through the normal protocols for a HIA [head injury assessment]. He was taken off the field for a HIA," Pivac stated.

"Josh Adams had an ankle injury. We will have to check him in the next day or two to see how severe it is."

Romain Ntamack says Six Nations leaders France are not discussing the prospect of winning a Grand Slam after he inspired a magnificent 27-23 victory over Wales.

Les Bleus ended a 10-year wait for a victory in Cardiff to outline their title credentials in a thriller at a raucous Principality Stadium on Saturday.

Fly-half Ntamack score a crucial intercept try in the second half following first-half scores from Anthony Bouthier and Paul Willemse.

Dan Biggar's 18-point haul was in vain as the defending champions suffered back-to-back defeats to leave their hopes of retaining the title in tatters.

France went on to complete a clean sweep after their last win in Wales back in 2010, which is the last time they won the tournament.

Ntamack, who was named man of the match after scoring 17 points and showing maturity way beyond his years, says they are not getting ahead of themselves in what has been a dream start to the Fabien Galthie era.

"It's amazing. We worked the whole week for a big game like that. It was a very tough game," he told BBC Sport.

"We have no experience, but we play with a smile. It was a good experience to win at the Principality.

"The try was a good moment. We don't think about the Grand Slam, we play match after match."

Captain Alun Wyn Jones says Wales only had themselves to blame.

"The scoreboard said they deserved it," he said. "You make your own luck sometimes and we fell short on the scoreboard.

"We gave them two penalties and they scored. In the second half, we had the ascendancy and we felt we should have got more out of that scrum. There was a case for a couple of penalty tries.

"They have a very good defence coach [former Wales defence guru Shaun Edwards] and were an embodiment of that today."

Serge Betsen feels the "unbelievable" Shaun Edwards has already made a big impact since he was appointed France defence coach and declared "this is just the beginning".

Edwards was lured across the English Channel to join a new-look Les Bleus coaching set-up under Fabien Galthie after 12 years as Wales defensive guru.

It was clear that the hugely respected, no-nonsense 53-year-old has already stamped his authority early in his new role with the manner in which France defended for their lives in a victory over England in their Six Nations opener.

Edwards returns to Cardiff on Saturday for France's showdown with his former employers at the Principality Stadium on what promises to be a pivotal weekend in the battle for the title.

Betsen has first-hand experience of Edwards' coaching skills from his time at Wasps and the former France flanker has paid tribute to the Englishman.

He told Omnisport: "Shaun Edwards used to be my coach at Wasps. He coached me for three years, he's an unbelievable coach, very passionate and very effective with what he does.

"He's one of the best defensive coaches in the world and everybody who he coaches, you can see the impact he has made. I'm looking forward to seeing how he is going to empower the French players for this game because it's really fine margins and those margins are so important.

"I don't feel he'll be looking to use his past experience with Wales as an advantage so much, but what he is really good at [is] empowering people and he'll make sure the players know how to be the best they can be."

Betsen revealed Edwards asked to pick his brains before embarking on his new challenge.

"I really appreciated the fact that Shaun asked to meet with me before he went to France, to try to understand the French mentality, et cetera," he added.

"As a Frenchman and someone who understands his coaching philosophy, I think he made a very good decision to try to understand the people he would be working with and the culture, to ensure he can adapt himself and make a difference.

"We saw the impact he has made in the game against England, not so much against Italy. He brings to the team with instilling discipline, effectiveness, attention to detail and this is just the beginning.

"What people remember from Shaun Edwards is the blitz defence and I want to see the French team being able to apply that at some point."

Serge Betsen laughed off Wyn Jones' claim that France will "cheat" in the Six Nations showdown on Saturday and urged Les Bleus to keep their discipline on a revenge mission in Cardiff.

Wales prop Jones fanned the flames this week by stating that the defending champions know France will "hit and chase and cheat" in the scrum.

France head coach Fabien Galthie accused Wales of a "lack of respect towards our scrum, towards our team, towards French rugby, towards our nation", while manager Raphael Ibanez described Jones' barbs as a "blatant, childish attack".

Betsen says joint-leaders Les Bleus are best advised to let their rugby do the talking when they bid to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

Asked about Jones' comments, the former France flanker told Omnisport: "That made me laugh, because it is an attempt to create disruption and get into the head of your opponents.

"Communication is a key aspect of the game, but I believe none of the French players responded to that. My view is better to be quiet and play at your best than start talking about things that are not the truth.

"Saying that, we are not really in the press outside of France because we are not speaking, we are not talking a lot about what we are doing, and we talk after the game."

A moment of madness from Sebastien Vahaamahina cost France dearly the last time the two nations met in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final at Oita Stadium in October.

Les Bleus were leading 19-10 at half-time and looked to be heading into the last four before lock Vahaamahina was dismissed for elbowing Aaron Wainwright, with Wales going on to win 20-19.

While a host of players who will feature at the Principality Stadium were not involved in that painful encounter, Betsen says it should make them even more eager to give Wales a taste of their own medicine.

"I think that red card gave them a lot of experience of high level. It is a great opportunity for all those players who felt that frustration of losing," he added.

"It will be very challenging for France, it is a young side, with players who have not experienced playing in Cardiff.

"At the highest level it is all about keeping your nerve, maintain your discipline."

Family loyalty will go out of the window when England and Ireland do battle this weekend, and France face a major test of their Six Nations title credentials against Wales.

Ireland beat defending champions Wales 24-14 in Dublin last time out, while France also made it two wins out of two with a 35-22 triumph over Italy.

The joint-leaders will not have home comforts for the first time in the tournament, with the third round of matches seeing Les Bleus travel to Cardiff on Saturday and Ireland taking on England at Twickenham on Sunday.

England captain Owen Farrell could inflict a first defeat on his father, Andy, since he become Ireland head coach.

Winless Scotland and Italy do battle on Saturday at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, where the hosts go in search of their first points of the tournament.

We take a look at what promises to a be pivotal round of matches with some standout Opta data.

 

Italy v Scotland

- Scotland have won six of their last seven Six Nations games against Italy, their solitary loss in that spell coming at Murrayfield in 2015 – the Azzurri’s last victory against any side in the Championship.

- Seven of the last eight Six Nations meetings between Italy and Scotland in Rome have been decided by seven points or fewer.

- Italy have spent 40 minutes in possession in the Six Nations this year, longer than any other side, making the most carries (300) and metres (857) in the process; in contrast, Scotland have spent the least time in possession during this campaign (33m 56s).

- Scotland have missed just 25 tackles in this year's Six Nations, fewer than any of their rivals and as a result boast the best tackle success rate (91 per cent).

 

Wales v France

- Wales have won eight of their last nine Test matches against France, this after winning just two of their previous 12 clashes with Les Bleus before that run.

- France and Scotland (7/7) are the only sides who boast a 100 per cent scrum success rate on their own feed in the Six Nations this year, while Wales have recorded the worst success rate at that particular set-piece - with 11 from 15.

- France’s Bernard Le Roux has made the most tackles of any player in the tournament with 38, one more than Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.

- No player has beaten more defenders in the Six Nations this year than France's Antoine Dupont (10, level with Stuart Hogg), while he also has the second-most offloads with seven.

 

England v Ireland

- Ireland are the only side to hold a winning record over England in the Six Nations (winning 11 and losing nine); however, they suffered a record 57-15 to the Red Rose in their last meeting before the Rugby World Cup.

- England have lost just one of their last 19 home games in the Six Nations (W17, D1). That one defeat came the last time they hosted Ireland in 2018.

- Ireland have won 95 per cent of their lineouts in the Six Nations this year (19/20), which is the best rate of any team. However, England have stolen the most lineouts (5) in the Championship.

- Maro Itoje has hit 74 rucks in the 2020 Six Nations, more than any other player, and has also won the most turnovers with six.

Gael Fickou moves to the wing and the fit-again Virimi Vakatawa is back in France's starting line-up for the Six Nations battle with Wales on Saturday.

Vakatawa was ruled out of the victory over Italy with a triceps injury but will make a centre pairing with Arthur Vincent at the Principality Stadium.

Fickou shifts out wide from midfield with Vincent Rattez (broken fibula) and Damian Penaud (calf) on the sidelines.

They are the only changes made to the starting line-up by Fabien Galthie as Les Bleus attempt to make it three wins out of three in Cardiff.

Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack have shaken off niggles to start for a France side that are joint-top with Ireland.

Prop Jean-Baptiste Gros and flanker Dylan Cretin are set to make their debuts off the bench against the defending champions, with Jefferson Poirot and Cameron Woki overlooked.

 

France: Anthony Bouthier, Teddy Thomas, Virimi Vakatawa, Arthur Vincent, Gael Fickou, Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont; Cyril Baille, Julien Marchand, Mohamed Haouas, Bernard Le Roux, Paul Willemse, Francois Cros, Charles Ollivon (captain) Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Camille Chat, Jean-Baptiste Gros, Demba Bamba, Romain Taofifenua, Dylan Cretin, Baptiste Serin, Matthieu Jalibert, Thomas Ramos.

 

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