Mako Vunipola available for England’s Six Nations opener despite four-match ban

By Sports Desk January 03, 2024

Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has received a four-match ban after being sent off against Gallagher Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Vunipola was dismissed during the closing stages of Saturday’s encounter following a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne.

He will miss Saracens’ Premiership appointments with Leicester and Exeter, plus Investec Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

Vunipola, though, will be available for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3 if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to recall him.

And that could prove timely, given current injuries to England’s three World Cup squad loosehead props Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Bevan Rodd.

Vunipola’s case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

“The player admitted that foul play took place, but not that it met the red card threshold,” the Rugby Football Union said.

“The panel upheld the charge and Vunipola received a four-match ban.

“He is ineligible to take part in World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme, having completed it in 2022.”

Had Vunipola not already done that programme, he could have applied on this occasion and then expected to have had one game subtracted from the suspension.

Related items

  • Archer has 'exceeded expectations', says Buttler following England comeback Archer has 'exceeded expectations', says Buttler following England comeback

    Jos Buttler has praised Jofra Archer upon his return to international cricket at the 2024 T20 World Cup. 

    Archer spent over a year on the sidelines nursing an elbow injury following a recurrence of a stress fracture that ruled him out of summer cricket 12 months ago.

    The 29-year-old has taken five wickets for Matthew Molt's side, the latest coming in their 41-run triumph over Namibia as they progressed to the Super 8 stage following Australia's win over Scotland. 

    "We were in and out looking at the weather and Jofra was asleep on the bench - he's in a really good place," said Buttler.

    "I’m just delighted to see him back in an England shirt playing on the big stage."

    Archer's struggles with injury have persisted for the last three years, missing England's 2023 Ashes series against the Aussies. 

    The fast bowler played a pivotal role in Three Lions' ODI World Cup success in 2019, and has recaptured that form which saw him take 20 wickets during that tournament.

    Archer has captured a wicket in each of England's World Cup fixtures, averaging an economy rate of 5.91, only bettered by Reece Topley (3.60). 

    Buttler has been impressed with the 29-year-old's form in the opening stages of the tournament, but revealed his progress has exceeded his expectations. 

    "He’s been fantastic and is an amazing guy to have in the team to throw the ball to," said Buttler.

    "He’s exceeded certainly my expectations for where he would be at. He was probably expecting that of himself."

  • Starc says Hazlewood comments 'blown out of proportion' as Australia win saves England Starc says Hazlewood comments 'blown out of proportion' as Australia win saves England

    Mitchell Starc said Josh Hazlewood's assertion that securing England's T20 World Cup exit would benefit Australia had been blown out of proportion after Saturday's win over Scotland kept their old rivals alive.

    England's rain-affected victory over Namibia on Saturday put their hopes of reaching the Super 8s in Australia's hands. 

    Having already sealed their own place in the next round, Australia knew a win over Scotland would keep their rivals in the tournament, while a defeat would see Scotland advance.

    Aided by six dropped catches, Scotland set a target of 181 only for Travis Head (68) and Marcus Stoinis (59) to excel with the bat as Australia got over the line with two balls to spare.

    Earlier this week, Hazlewood suggested Australia might be best served by ensuring they cannot meet England further down the line, speculating about the possibility of "dragging out" the match against Scotland.

    Starc, however, insists those comments were made with tongue in cheek.

    "I think a throwaway line has been blown right out of proportion by you lot," he said, referring to the media.

    "You don't stuff around with mother cricket and trying to worry about other results. We're here to win games. It's international cricket. 

    "England now are on the other side of the draw, so it really doesn't make that much difference for the next three games."

    Brandon McMullen – who hit a terrific 60 off 34 balls for Scotland, including two fours and six maximums – never questioned the integrity of Australia's approach.

    "They're always going to put up a good fight," he said. "They're never just going to roll over and let you win. 

    "I'm glad that it was a close game today. We showed that we can compete at this high level against the best players in the world."

  • England into Super 8s as Australia break Scotland's hearts England into Super 8s as Australia break Scotland's hearts

    England qualified for the Super 8s at the T20 World Cup at Scotland's expense after Australia completed a dramatic chase to eliminate Richie Berrington's team in St Lucia. 

    England's hopes of extending their title defence were left in Australia's hands following their 41-run, rain-affected victory over Namibia in Antigua earlier on Saturday.

    That result meant Scotland needed a win to progress, while Australia had already clinched their place in the next stage and had nothing to play for.

    England's old enemies did not treat it like a dead rubber, though, as Travis Head (68) and Marcus Stoinis (59) starred with the bat, the latter hitting his total from just 29 balls including nine fours and two maximums.

    That ensured they chased down a daunting target of 181 with just two balls to spare as Scotland gave a good account of themselves once again.

    It had looked like Scotland's innings might be a short one when Michael Jones went for two after just six balls, but they recovered to reach 92-2 as Brandon McMullen made 60 off 34 deliveries.

    However, his vital wicket fell when he got a thick outside edge on Adam Zampa's delivery, Mitchell Starc diving to complete a clean catch.

    Skipper Berrington hit an unbeaten 42 but Scotland's total would prove to be insufficient, some expensive bowling costing them as even Safyaan Sharif's two wickets came at a cost of 44 runs. 

    While Scotland have now fallen at the first hurdle on five of their six T20 World Cup appearances, England live to fight another day.

    The 2022 victors will now face both co-hosts, the United States and West Indies, as well as South Africa, in Group 2 at the Super-8 stage.

    Data Debrief: Thrill of the chase for Australia 

    Earlier this week, England fans were put on edge when Josh Hazlewood suggested it might be in Australia's "best interests" to take it easy against Scotland and send their old rivals home. 

    Six dropped catches from the Australian fielders might have had England fearing the worst as Scotland reached 180-5, but the Aussie batters can never be ruled out.

    Their strike rate of 160.2 in the final five overs when chasing at the T20 World Cup is the second highest of any team, behind only West Indies (163.8).

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.