Rugby Union


Mako Vunipola welcomes return of Joe Marler for England

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Mako Vunipola will welcome Joe Marler’s return from suspension after emptying the tanks in the opening two rounds of England’s NatWest 6 Nations title defence.

Eddie Jones praised Vunipola’s “remarkable” work-rate in Saturday’s 12-6 victory over Wales, the head coach adding that he was “absolutely exhausted” when he was replaced in the 77th minute.

The Saracens prop played a similar amount of time against Italy six days earlier and has been forced to undertake the unusually long shifts – he would normally depart before the hour – due to England’s injury crisis at loosehead.

Now that Marler can be selected for the clash with Scotland on February 24 after serving a six-week ban for dangerous clearing out of a ruck, Vunipola’s minutes will be reduced as he no longer has to cover for rookie Alec Hepburn.

“Alec’s done very well under the circumstances, but when you have a world class prop like Joe around it obviously makes a difference,” Vunipola said.

“It’s good to have him back, not just for the rugby side but he’s also a good character to have around as well.

“I actually feel pretty good. Eddie wasn’t wrong with what he said about me being exhausted, I was shattered at the end against Wales.

“But the recovery we’ve done since has been good and has helped me get the body right. I’m looked after very well by the staff.

“I’m very happy with the way things are going. I’m feeling confident and I prepare well, which means your team-mates have confidence in you and you can go out and do your job.”

Vunipola and Marler took turns to take part in Tuesday’s scrummaging session against Georgia, who are spending 48 hours with the Six Nations champions at their west London base.

The teams’ backs have already faced off on the training field and, on Wednesday, line-out sessions will be conducted, but the main purpose of the Georgians’ visit was for the packs to lock horns over a scrum.

“It was a good session. As a team we learned a lot and it’s always good to come up against something different,” Vunipola said.

England Media Access

“When you’re always scrummaging each other, you negate each other in some ways.

“Georgia were very motivated to prove they’re a good pack. It was a good tussle. We learned some things against them which we’ve taken on board.

“We had to learn on the go and that’s the main thing we took out of the session – it wasn’t always going to go our way or be what we expected, it was different, but it’s good to expect anything.”

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Six Nations
Rugby Union
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