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'I underestimated how much it made things difficult for them to be at their best'

By Liam Heagney

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Eddie Jones has explained the rationale behind his decision not to involve Billy Vunipola in the summer series that will see England play Test matches at Twickenham next month versus the USA and Canada following this Sunday’s A team match versus Scotland A at Leicester.

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Vunipola was one of many players who looked out of sorts during the fifth-place finish by England in the recent Guinness Six Nations, a lack of form not helped by the No8 playing for a club that wasn’t in the Gallagher Premiership this term. 

While club colleagues Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Maro Itoje, players who also suffered from inconsistent performances at Test level, were able to benefit from what Warren Gatland described as credit in the bank, there was no such leeway afforded to Vunipola when it came to Lions selection. 

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The making of England and Lions star Maro Itoje
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The making of England and Lions star Maro Itoje

Instead, the 28-year-old was omitted with Gatland opting to select Sam Simmonds, the record-breaking Exeter try-scorer even though he had last played at Test level for England in March 2018. Vunipola wrapped up his club season last Sunday by helping Saracens seal the Championship title and secure promotion back to the Premiership.

However, rather than bring Vunipola into the England fold, Jones felt it best not to involve the forward in a 36-strong squad that currently contains 23 uncapped players, albeit one of those is the injured Miles Reid whose facial bone fracture, which is still being assessed, ruled him out on Wednesday of any involvement.  

“We felt it was best to rest him,” explained Jones about England opting not to call-up Vunipola. “He needs to find the best of himself. He knows that he is another one who needs to get in the best physical condition. It’s been tough for those Sarries boys. I underestimated how much it made things difficult for them to be at their best.

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“They missed a lot of training, a lot of hard games and this is the opportunity for those guys who missed out on the Lions to have a really good pre-season with their club and come back ready to challenge for an England shirt in the autumn.”

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'I underestimated how much it made things difficult for them to be at their best'

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