Billy Vunipola’s first appearance for six weeks met with the approval of his Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall despite a 27-26 defeat by Ealing Trailfinders.
Vunipola completed the Trailfinders Challenge Cup opener with Eddie Jones watching from the stands to give England’s head coach a boost before the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 6.
The number eight was the only member of Jones’ squad on parade in west London with the remainder placed on bespoke pre-season training programmes to prepare them for the Calcutta Cup.
“I thought Billy was outstanding, genuinely. He has been brilliant with this young group all week. He has been really positive with them,” McCall said.
“It’s so hard for an international player to play in a game like this and not get frustrated at times – with your team-mates and with the opposition. But I’m really pleased.
“Billy is just a great club man, he knows the importance of senior players and their influence on the younger players.
“Some of these younger players are just starting their journey and to have someone like Billy to guide them through, stay positive and be supportive, is very good.
“All our internationals have a specific pre-season programme to peak for the Six Nations and Billy’s includes playing time as that is when he is at his best.”
Scotland centre Duncan Taylor failed a head injury assessment and was unable to finish the match.
Ealing director of rugby Ben Ward was delighted by his side’s win in the round-robin curtain raiser to the Green King IPA Championship campaign.
“For us the important thing to show where we are as a club was to get the result,” Ward said.
“Three years ago we thought we were in a good place but hadn’t beaten a Premiership side. Now we’ve beaten London Irish, Newcastle and Sarries, so that’s another step up.
“It’s important that we show consistency, but on another day we would have lost that game because we should have been further ahead.”
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