Curry lined up to cover for Vunipola
England insist they can cope if Billy Vunipola is ruled out of their final Pool C match against France, despite not having another specialist No8 in their 31-man squad.
Vunipola was withdrawn at halftime of England’s 39-10 victory over Argentina at the Tokyo Stadium on Saturday after twisting an ankle and will today discover the results of a scan. England will not take any risks with the Saracens forward, who has started all 12 Tests this year, having already qualified for the quarter-finals after three wins.
Tom Curry, the Sale Sharks flanker, is likely to be switched to No 8 for the match on Saturday, having deputised in the position during the second half against Argentina, with Lewis Ludlam starting at blindside flanker and Sam Underhill at open side.
The other option to Eddie Jones, the England head coach, is to start Mark Wilson at No8, a position in which the Newcastle flanker, who is joining Sale Sharks on loan at the end of the World Cup, has started three times for England.
“We knew we would have to move people around, so we have trained accordingly with the different back rows in those positions,” Neal Hatley, the scrum coach, said.
“I thought he [Curry] did really well [at No 8]. He is a good footballer. Mark Wilson played the whole of the autumn last year for us there and Lewis Ludlam has played a little bit at No8, so whoever we pick there, we have good confidence in the training we have put in place for them to do a job.”
Asked if Wilson had been unfortunate to have missed out so far in this tournament – he was a replacement for the victory over the United States and has started one game, the World Cup warm-up match against Italy, since the end of last season – Hatley said it was a reflection of the competition in the back row.
“That is the beauty of the squad,” Hatley said. “Nobody stands still. Mark, a year ago in the autumn, was one of the standout players. What is happening is that Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Lewis Ludlam and Billy, these guys, everybody, are getting better. Mark Wilson is playing a bit better, but the competition within the squad, the other guys are pushing up there with him.”