Billy Vunipola

Billy Vunipola facing decisive moment for quarterfinal availability

Vunipola is rated “very likely” to be available for the Oita Stadium showdown on Saturday as he recovers from the ankle injury sustained against Argentina.

England will be desperate to field their bulldozing number eight as they bid to complete a seventh successive victory over Australia under Eddie Jones but only have one full practice session left before the team is announced.

Vunipola was rated doubtful for the last-eight clash but on Tuesday completed running, cycling, wrestling and boxing drills as his recovery took another significant step forward.

England appear to get Vunipola boost

In a major lift to Eddie Jones’ men, the powerful Saracens No8 is on course to recover from the ankle injury that forced him off at half-time against Argentina last Saturday week.

Jones names his team to face the Wallabies on Thursday and Vunipola, the only player to have started all 12 of England’s Tests this year, will be an automatic selection if fit.

“Billy is progressing really well,” defence coach John Mitchell said. “He has trained again today and we are very confident in his progression each day. He’s very likely (to be available).

England wait on Billy Vunipola ankle injury update ahead of 'Le Crunch'

Vunipola failed to appear for the second-half of the 39-10 victory over Argentina on Saturday that guaranteed their presence in the quarter-finals with the Pool C finale at International Stadium Yokohama still to play.

The marauding Saracens number eight is the only player to have started all 12 of England’s games this year and the overwhelming priority will be to ensure he is fit for the last eight.

“Billy has had a scan and we will have a clearer picture tomorrow (Tuesday),” scrum coach Neal Hatley said.

Billy Vunipola is unbowed after facing the music in Tonga’s hit parade

In the local paper’s front page wrap of Saturday’s match here the Hokkaido Shimbun was pleased to report to its readers that everything had gone off smoothly at the Sapporo Dome, with the exception of a single subway train to the ground, which had run precisely three minutes late. The express that hit Billy Vunipola during Sunday’s game, on the other hand, arrived right on time. It was called Zane Kapeli and it caught him flush in the chest just as he was breaking into a sprint upfield off the back of a lineout.

'Everything in Tonga is probably the same as it was in 1888... that is the way we love it'

Vunipola will start Sunday’s Japan 2019 opener at No8 as the nations clash in only the third instalment of a narrative that began when Billy’s father and uncle ran out at Twickenham.

Fe’ao and Elisi were on the wrong end of a 101-10 hiding that day, but the occasion left a lasting impression on a wide-eyed six-year-old who was born in Australia but had spent long spells in Tonga.

England fans exasperated by Vunipola's status as the only player to start all four warm-up games

 The England coaching team have defended their over-reliance on Vunipola, saying the No8 needs to play regularly as he gets better with every game despite fears from fans of fatigue and injury. 

The Saracens star has had his fair share of injury troubles over the past couple of seasons, particularly with his knees and breaking an arm on multiple occasions. 

With England’s World Cup campaign starting less than three weeks, England fans on social media cannot understand why he is still being played. 

Vunipola out to create a legacy

England were humbled on home soil in 2015, finishing third in Pool A, with Wales and eventual runners-up Australia securing progression to the knockout stages.

On Monday, Vunipola was included in Eddie Jones' 31-man squad for the upcoming tournament having starred in Sunday's 33-19 defeat of Six Nations champions Wales.

Despite their disappointment in 2015, Jones' side will be favourites to progress from Pool C, with France, Argentina, United States and Tonga their opponents, and Vunipola does not believe England's failure in the last World Cup will haunt them in Japan.

England number eight defends Folau's post

Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, was informed by Rugby Australia on Thursday he would be sacked if he could offer no good reason for a social media post that said gay people would go to "hell" if they did not "repent".

Vunipola said he had been told by three people to withdraw his apparent support for Folau's post.

"He's saying how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be. Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?," Vunipola wrote on Instagram.

Vermeulen on Vunipola absence

Vunipola's tour came to an end on Monday after it was confirmed he had re-fractured his arm during the second match in Bloemfontein.

The number eight has returned to London and will be assessed next week to establish what action needs to be taken to fix the problem.

Vunipola's brother Mako has also flown home after England fell 2-0 down in the three-match series, but it is Billy that Vermeulen believes will be the biggest loss.

Saracens hopeful over Vunipola

The powerful back-row forward returned from a fractured forearm suffered in January to feature in the 51-14 victory over London Irish on Sunday.

There were fears the 25-year-old had swiftly fallen victim to yet another fitness setback after he experienced an issue on Wednesday.

And while Vunipola is indeed set to miss Saturday's regular-season Premiership finale against Gloucester, Saracens' director of rugby McCall claimed his star should be back for the team's subsequent last-four showdown against Newcastle Falcons or Wasps.