Billy Vunipola’s is due to have surgery on his broken arm on Tuesday and he’s taken to social media before the operation.
This time it’s his left arm that he’s broken and writing on Instagram Vunipola said “I’ll be back, I won’t be bigger I won’t be better I’ll just be back! This ones cut me though.”
It’s been a torrid 18 months or so for Vunipola. He missed England’s first three Six Nations games of 2017 because of a knee injury, making a sub appearance against Scotland and starting against Ireland. He then withdrew from the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand because of a shoulder injury, opting for surgery to fix a recurring problem rather than touring.
Last season was pretty much a washout. A knee injury at the end of September also required surgery and saw the 36-times capped player miss out on the Autumn internationals. After an absence of almost four months he returned, but that lasted just two matches before he suffered a fractured forearm against the Ospreys in the Champions Cup in January, wiping him out for another four months, forcing him to miss the entire 2018 Natwest Six Nations, where he was sorely missed as England finished fifth.
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The 25-year-old made an appearance off the bench against London Irish at the end of April, but the luckless Vunipola tweaked a hamstring in training after that. He finally made his first start since that Ospreys game during Saracens Premiership 57-33 semi-final win over Wasps, however only lasted a half, due to a recurrence of the hamstring problem. He did recover in time to help Saracens to their third domestic title in four years starting the final against Exeter.
That was enough for Eddie Jones to immediately hand Vunipola the number 8 jersey for the South Africa tour, the first Test in Johannesburg was just his second international start for England since the 2016 Autumn internationals. But injury was yet again around the corner, the second Test in Bloemfontein saw him re-fracture his arm, ending his tour.
This latest injury leaves England scrambling around for options at number 8, with Nathan Hughes set for a ban following his scuffle with Glouceser’s Lewis Ludlow and subsequent tweeting during his original disciplinary hearing.
Bath backrow Zach Mercer is likely to get a chance. Mercer will benefit from game-time in the position at club level following Toby Faletau’s arm break.
Yesterday Saracens said that Billy Vunipola’s brother Mako was still being assessed over his calf injury while lock Nick Isiekwe is also a doubt with a specialist set to determine how long his ankle will take to heal and if surgery is going to be needed to get him back into action.
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