Jones loses two key play­ers for open­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Mick Cleary

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.

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