Having missed the last England Six Nations game with Wales after being told to self-isolate, back-in-favour Mako Vunipola has promised that Eddie Jones’ squad will not put their title-deciding clash with Italy in Rome on Saturday in jeopardy with the kind of behaviour that saw their game with the Barbarians cancelled last weekend.

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Vunipola sat out the 33-30 win over Wales seven months ago after flying back to London from a family trip to Tonga via Hong Kong, triggering fears that he may have been exposed to Covid-19. 

The Saracens prop was able to continue club rugby at the time after his isolation period ended and he is now preparing to fly to Rome less than a week after a dozen Barbarians players left their team bubble last week forcing the cancellation of the fixture with England at Twickenham on Sunday.

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Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell give the England update after team selection to face Italy

Set to win his 60th England cap in Rome where tough new rules to tackle the pandemic have been implemented, Vunipola believes the Barbarians fiasco – which reportedly included his cousin Manu – was a “timely reminder” of the responsibilities that professional rugby players have to the game and the thousands who are unable to play the sport due to the impact of Covid-19.

Vunipola said: “The doctor and team manager have been very clear about the guidelines about what we can and cannot do and being in the bubble here has been good. 

“What happened last weekend is a timely reminder of the responsibility we have got to the rugby community and for the game to be cancelled was unfortunate. We have a responsibility to uphold (the rules) and with the lockdown, it’s not great circumstances. We are very fortunate and want to take this opportunity with both hands.

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“All we can do is look after ourselves and make sure we are taking on the challenge, to do the basics brilliantly and put out a performance we are proud of. It’s all about getting the mind and body ready now for Italy. They have a lot of pride and will want to put on a performance.”

Vunipola will pack down alongside fellow Saracens front row Jamie George, who is winning his 50th cap in Rome. “Jamie is a world-class hooker, one of the best if not the best at the lineout. He’s a great people person and I have known him for a long time. Reaching a half-century is a great achievement.”

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