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Fans worried about Vunipola's workload

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England's squad has sparked fears that too much is expected of Billy Vunipola

After Eddie Jones announced on Monday his final 31-man England squad for the World Cup, fans are expecting a lot from No8 Billy Vunipola. 

Fresh from a man of the match performance against Wales at Twickenham on Sunday, the Saracens back row has long been one of England’s best and most influential players. However, the RWC squad announcement has heaped additional pressure on him. 

Jones’ initial World Cup training squad in July had Brad Shields and Mark Wilson listed as the two players who could be Vuniploa’s back-up in the No8, although both are primarily flankers. 

An injury to Shields saw Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt come into the squad, a player who is much more accustomed to playing at the base of the scrum. However, neither Shields nor Dombrandt made the final squad, meaning there is no clear-cut back up to 26-year-old Vunipola should he need a rest. 

This development has surprised some fans on social media, as Dombrandt’s versatility in the back row could have proven crucial in Japan.

Wilson deputised last autumn as a No8 while Vunipola was injured and while he did a great job, his best position is clearly No6. But that is perhaps why Jones has not opted for another eight in the squad, as simply no one competes with Vunipola. 

While fellow specialist Nathan Hughes had been a mainstay in Jones’ squads over the past four years, the Australian may have reached the conclusion that it is futile having another eight in the squad as Vunipola will ultimately play as much a possible as he is a world-class player. 

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This is not necessarily a rare decision in Test rugby. The All Blacks are unlikely to name an eight behind captain Kieran Read. Rather they will rely on flanker Ardie Savea being able to move to the back of the scrum when needed. Likewise, after the injury to Taulupe Faletau, Wales will only have Ross Moriarty in the squad as an out-and-out eight. 

If fit, Vuniplola is always going to start in the key pool games against France and Argentina and also any knockout games. But with games against the USA and Tonga only four days apart, that is when the services of Wilson may be needed in order to give Vunipola a break as he is also likely to play a full 80 minutes in every game. 

While Jones may have given himself the luxury of being able to rotate players around during the World Cup in other positions, his squad is a statement that a lot is expected from Vunipola. Fans on Twitter seem very aware of this and this is what has been said:

Perhaps the most concerning thing for some English fans is the fact that Vunipola has been through a few injury-plagued years. In light of this, it may be unnecessary to overwork him in games or situations where he may not be needed. 

Then again, he has also shown to be an indispensable member of Jones’ squad as he strengthens the team immeasurably. 

WATCH: Jonathan Joseph tells RugbyPass about his Sunday at Twickenham and his World Cup selection

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England's squad has sparked fears that too much is expected of Billy Vunipola