12 April 2023

Billy Vunipola out for rest of season as World Cup comeback hopes dealt blow

12 April 2023

Billy Vunipola’s season is over after he sustained a knee injury in Saracens’ Heineken Champions Cup defeat at La Rochelle on Sunday.

Vunipola will miss the Gallagher Premiership leaders’ last three games of the regular season and home semi-final, as well as the Twickenham final if they reach that stage.

It is also a blow to his hopes to mounting an England comeback in time for this autumn’s World Cup and he will not be given a time-frame for his recovery until surgery has been completed on Thursday.

Vunipola suffered the injury while carrying the ball in the first half of the quarter-final showdown at Stade Marcel-Deflandre and had to be carried from the pitch on a stretcher.

A scan has revealed the extent of the damage, leaving Saracens to enter the climactic phase of their bid to seize Leicester’s Premiership crown without their most destructive ball-carrier.

“Billy suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against La Rochelle. He will therefore miss the remainder of the 2022/23 season. We’re all behind you, Billy!” a Saracens statement read.

Vunipola’s form, combined with the failure of Alex Dombrandt to convince in the number eight jersey, raised the prospect of an England comeback with the World Cup fast approaching.

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton recently declared that Vunipola should be reinstated to the back row for the tournament in France on the basis of the ball-carrying power he provides.

But the 30-year-old, who is rumoured to not be on speaking terms with England boss Steve Borthwick, has now been denied any further opportunities to press his claim on the pitch, even if does recover in time for September.

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