Vunipola in contention for Calcutta Cup spot with England after successful return from injury with Saracens
PUBLISHED: 13:53 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:53 06 March 2017
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Saracens Billy Vunipola has been called into the England squad after coming through his comeback game unscathed after injury.
The big no.8 played 72 minutes as Saracens defeated Newcastle Falcons 35-27 and that was enough for England coach Eddie Jones to pick up the phone and draft him into a provisional squad of 30 ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland at Twickenham.
Vunipola was hoping to receive that call after the game at Kingston Park but his biggest thrill was coming through after three months out with a knee injury.
He said: “It’s nice to be back in the mix. A lot of people when they are away from the game don’t miss mauling, don’t miss scrummaging, but I did.
“I felt fine, I’m not sure why he took me off but that’s the coach’s decision. I’m just looking forward to my fish and chips. It’s been a long time coming.
“It’s a tough place to come and play. We knew the challenge coming up here and I thought we stuck to our task really well, even when they got back to within 10 points. It showed good charcather from the boys.
“I talked to Eddie this week and said to him that if I come through the game and felt ok, we’d talk.
“I’d love to be back in the mix I don’t want to disrespect anyone by saying I’m going to walk straight back in. If he wants me to play, I’m more than happy to take that call.”
He also explained that there was no miracle cure despite returning to action three weeks ahead of schedule.
“I’ve just been doing a lot of different stuff to keep me sane,” he explained. “When you’re in the gym the whole time it can drive you crazy, especially with someone like Alex Goode who talks non-stop, it drives you up the wall.
“[I took] any chance I could to get out and do some basic skills and keep on top of it.
“With me and my brother the biggest thing is our faith. We knew we had to take this opportunity and see it as a blessing. Not a lot of people can do that. I had three months where I had some good fun and met a lot of people.
“My plan was always to chase this period but I didn’t want to put myself under pressure.
“We had a four-week block where we hit it hard, double weights into a fitness session. That was tough but now I’m out of it I can see the benefit and against Newcastle I didn’t feel like it was a pre-season game, I just felt normally tired.”
His Saracens boss, Mark McCall, was pleased with how his charge performed.
“He was pretty good,” he said. “He probably played a little bit longer than we anticipated but he felt good during the game which is a positive sign. He made some good contributions and he’s only going to get better and better.
“We were pretty clinical when we got some opportunities and they made some line breaks and weren’t able to capitalise on that.
“I thought we defended well because they’re unbelievable dangerous. They play some great rugby now and for us to go there and get five tries and five points, it’s a great achievement.”
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