England called up veteran No.8 Nick Easter to avert a potential back-row crisis ahead of the must-win game against Australia at the Rugby World Cup, after Billy Vunipola was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury yesterday.
A scan showed Vunipola strained knee ligaments in the 28-25 loss to Wales on Saturday that left the English in real danger of early elimination from the tournament they are hosting. The 37-year-old Easter, who played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, was on punditry duties at Twickenham for the Wales game.
Now he could be back in the home of English rugby as a player on Saturday, adding to his 52 test caps. Fellow No.8 Ben Morgan is nursing a knee injury from the opening win against Fiji and remains a doubt for Australia.
“Nick was unlucky to miss out on final selection,” England coach Stuart Lancaster said. “He is a specialist No. 8 and an experienced player.”
Flanker Tom Wood has been cleared to play Australia after avoiding a citing charge for kneeing Wales full-back Liam Williams on the head. Wood got off with a warning, much to the relief of Lancaster, whose back-row option will be limited this weekend if Morgan doesn’t make it.