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England are willing to fast-track Mako Vunipola into the starting line-up for this Saturday’s crucial Rugby World Cup clash against Argentina, despite the prop playing just 17 minutes of rugby in four-and-a-half months.
Vunipola underwent surgery on his hamstring in May after limping out of Saracens’ Champions Cup final victory, and an attempted return during the World Cup warm-ups had to be aborted when he damaged the scar tissue against Ireland.
The loosehead prop was subsequently ruled out of England’s opening World Cup victories against Tonga and the United States, but returned to full training last Friday along with Jack Nowell to give England boss Eddie Jones a full 31-man squad to select from. In Vunipola’s absence, however, Joe Marler and Ellis Genge have impressed, and it is not a given that Vunipola can count on what he has done over his 54 England appearances to date to walk straight back into the side.
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But with two in-form looseheads and a world class front-row forward to select from, England are not against throwing Vunipola straight back into the mix.
“Sometimes you’re better off starting with the adrenalin pumping rather than sitting on the bench,” said scrum coach Neil Hatley. “We’ll know more Tuesday or Wednesday where Mako is.
“It is not so much markers [that Vunipola will have to hit]. We will see in training. Like all of our front row, how they get up off the floor when they defend, how often they put themselves in positions to attack, repeat efforts in training. When we have scrums under duress, making sure they get up and work away from that. All the coaches have a look a
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