Mako Vunipola will start for Saracens on Saturday at the end of a week where he was axed from the England squad amid the current fears surrounding the coronavirus.

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The prop had recently flown home from Tonga via Hong Kong and while he was initially included in Eddie Jones’ 34-man squad for this weekend’s Guinness Six Nations match versus Wales, he was told not to attend following medical advice. 

England said their decision was based on the fact that it is a camp-based environment where players are with each other 24 hours a day.

It had been suggested that Vunipola was in self-isolation following his trip home, but this was subsequently dismissed in a statement by Saracens who explained that the forward had been attending club training and was in contention to face Leicester at Allianz Park. 

Coach Mark McCall has now declared his hand for the Saturday fixture and the loosehead will start in a team showing nine changes from last weekend’s win at Northampton. 

(Continue reading below…)

The confusing Mako Vunipola fallout

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The front row is completely fresh from the trip to Franklin’s Gardens, Vunipola joined up front by hooker Tom Woolstencroft and tighthead Vincent Koch.

Senior academy duo Joel Kpoku and Sean Reffell are named at lock and openside flanker respectively with Calum Clark also an addition to the back row.

Skipper Brad Barritt returns to a midfield where he is joined by Dom Morris, while Matt Gallagher comes in at full-back to complete the backline amendments.

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Saracens (vs Leicester, Saturday)

15 Matt Gallagher; 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Dom Morris, 12 Brad Barritt (capt), 11 Alex Lewington; 10 Manu Vunipola, 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Will Skelton, 5 Joel Kpoku, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 7 Sean Reffell, 8 Calum Clark. Reps: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Titi Lamositele
19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Mike Rhodes, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Tom Whiteley, 23 Ali Crossdale.

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