Billy Vunipola backed for England Rugby World Cup surprise selection

Billy Vunipola backed for England Rugby World Cup recall by his Saracens coach Mark McCall, despite still being injured, as Steve Borthwick mulls over his 33-man squad

  • Billy Vunipola could make his England return at the upcoming Rugby World Cup
  • The experienced forward is currently recovering from a serious knee injury
  • But Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes he could be selected 

Billy Vunipola has been backed to make a last-minute claim for an England World Cup spot as the rampaging No 8 continues to recover from a knee injury.

Vunipola’s season was ended when he was forced off in Saracens’ Champions Cup defeat by eventual winners La Rochelle in April. He promptly underwent surgery on his knee.

The 30-year-old won’t play for Saracens in their Premiership final with Sale at Twickenham on Saturday but is already back in training in the gym.

MailSport understands that while Vunipola was left out of England’s Six Nations squad, he remains very much on the radar of international head coach Steve Borthwick.

Alex Dombrandt failed to convince at No 8 for England earlier this year and there is no-one available to Borthwick who matches Vunipola’s ball-carrying power at the base of the scrum.

Billy Vunipola (left) has been backed as a surprise inclusion in England’s Rugby World Cup squad 

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (left) has tipped England head coach Steve Borthwick (right) to select Vunipola

‘I think he’ll be back running fully in the middle of August at the latest,’ Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said of Vunipola. ‘There is a long time until the World Cup.

‘Billy historically comes back from these injuries, which he’s had a few of, really well. He’s able to train and is training hard at the moment.

‘I think he’ll be in the right condition to go to the World Cup. It’s whether Steve is prepared to pick him or not.’

England will play Wales in Cardiff and at Twickenham, travel to Ireland, and also host Fiji for their four warm-up games ahead of the World Cup which starts in France in September.

Borthwick will name his official World Cup squad in the second week of August.

If he does opt for Vunipola as part of his final 33-man party, he will likely have to do so without him having played any competitive rugby since April.

Dombrandt of Harlequins started all of England’s five Six Nations games at No 8 while Borthwick also has Montpellier-bound Sam Simmonds and Zach Mercer to consider in that position.

Mercer, currently with Montpellier, is returning to English rugby with Gloucester.

Vunipola (left) has been injured since Saracens defeat to La Rochelle in April

Alex Dombrandt started all of England’s five Six Nations games at No 8 this year

Meanwhile, Premiership Rugby is facing a race against time to sell out the league’s showpiece game at Twickenham on Saturday.

McCall’s Saracens will face Alex Sanderson’s Sale in a hotly-anticipated final but it is understood ticket sales for the match are currently well short of capacity.

Premiership Rugby refused to reveal how many tickets have been sold but it is understood they are approaching the 60,000 mark.

Twickenham’s capacity is 82,000 meaning there is the potential for significant gaps in the crowd this weekend unless there is a strong last-minute sales push.

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