Jones loses two key players for openers
England will head to the World Cup in Japan tomorrow evening with two players, prop Mako Vunipola and wing Jack Nowell, ruled out of the opening two matches against Tonga and the United States.
It had been hoped that Vunipola would only been sidelined for 10 days after aggravating a hamstring in the match against Ireland a fortnight ago. The Saracens loosehead had initially been on the sidelines for three months after tearing the hamstring off the bone in the Champions Cup final against Leinster in June.
Vunipola played only 17 minutes of the 57-15 win over Ireland at Twickenham after coming on as a substitute before experiencing difficulty once again in the same area.
The early prognosis was that he would be fit and firing by the start of the tournament but following England’s fitful 37-0 win over Italy at St James’ Park, England head coach Eddie Jones revealed that the prop required a longer period of rehabilitation with a targeted return against Argentina in Tokyo on Oct 5.
Nowell has not played since injuring his knee and ankle in the Premiership final against Saracens on June 1. Jones believes that England have enough strength in depth to cope with any shortfall across the opening weeks and insists that both players are on course to play a significant part in the tournament.
“I’m not concerned at all [about them missing the opening games] as these are very important players for us,” said Jones. “We are confident that they will make a great contribution and be ready by game three or four.”
Jones was also putting on an upbeat face over injures to lock Joe Launchbury and hooker Luke Cowan-dickie, both of whom were forced off during the last of England’s warm-up matches in Newcastle. “Early indications are that the problems are not serious,” said Jones. “Joe has a sore back while Luke took a knock to the knee. We also took Kyle Sinckler off as a precaution.”
England will meet up again tomorrow to head to their training base in Miyazaki ahead of their opening game in Pool C against Tonga at the Sapporo Dome on Sept 22.
“We were loose in the first half, wanting to play shots rather than build an innings,” said Jones. “We looked as if we were still eating pizza and pasta in Treviso in that first half. We got it out of our system though and were really purposeful in the second half.”
Ben Youngs was voted man of the match after a commanding display.