Mako Vunipola England v Australia: Billy Vunipola ‘likely’ to start Rugby World Cup quarterfinal

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A look into the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal matchups as the field is cut down to the last eight in Japan.

England are expected to keep the starting XV who defeated Argentina for the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Australia on Saturday, so long as Billy Vunipola comes through the final major training session on Wednesday (Thursday NZT).

Vunipola’s chances of being fit were rated as “highly likely” by John Mitchell, the England defence coach, as the No 8 continued his rehabilitation from the ankle injury he sustained during the first half of the victory against Argentina in Tokyo 11 days ago.

Mako Vunipola England No 8 Billy Vunipola grapples with team-mate Lewis Ludlam during a training session in Beppu.

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England No 8 Billy Vunipola grapples with team-mate Lewis Ludlam during a training session in Beppu.

Joe Marler is expected to retain his place at loosehead prop, having recovered from a back injury which would have ruled him out of the match against France that was cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis.

Mako Vunipola, who would have started against France, remains short of match fitness, having returned to action himself from a long-standing hamstring injury as a replacement in the Argentina match. He will have a significant impact from the bench, however.

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This is not the game for experimenting or giving players time to play themselves up to match fitness. Eddie Jones, the head coach, will have seen enough from the victory over Argentina and will want to reap the benefits of continuity as England seek to reach their first semifinal since 2011. That means George Ford will be retained at first five-eighth with Owen Farrell at inside centre.

The only enforced change to the 23 who played against Argenti

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