Sunday 16 December 2018

Billy Vunipola in 'race against time' to be fit for Saracens' Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster

Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola has been ruled our for the clash with Leinster.
Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola has been ruled our for the clash with Leinster.

Charlie Morgan

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has admitted that Billy Vunipola is in a “race against time” to be fit for his side’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster on Sunday week.

Having returned from knee surgery just a week previously, Vunipola fractured his forearm during Saracens’ 15-15 draw with Ospreys in the Champions Cup pool stage on January 13.

The 25 year-old was subsequently ruled out for a period of “approximately 12 weeks” by his club and missed the entirety of England's NatWest Six Nations campaign.

Sam Simmonds and Nathan Hughes started at the base of the scrum during a dismal campaign for Eddie Jones’ title-holders, the latter suffering a knee injury in the first half of the 22-16 defeat to France in Paris.

After Saracens scraped through to the European knockout rounds to face top seeds Leinster, who boast a large contingent of Ireland’s Grand Slam squad, it had been hoped that Vunipola would feature.

However, McCall conceded his No 8 could struggle to make such a target and that Saracens are sweating on a medical opinion.

“It’s a little bit uncertain,” he said. “Billy is in a race against time to be ready for the quarter-final.

“We’ll make a call on what the surgeon says. If the arm isn't right to play then we won't risk him. He's been injured enough, we don't want to re-injure him.”

Vunipola’s most recent comeback on a horrific injury run, in a 38-15 Premiership victory over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena on January 7, came in the wake of a four-month lay-off.

Prior to that, he had missed the summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to undergo a shoulder operation.

While eager to protect Vunipola, McCall reiterated that the latest set-back had been a case of misfortunate rather than mismanagement.

“It was just unlucky. We've been unlucky with three broken arms to some important players – Calum Clark, Will Skelton and Billy.

“Billy is very close to coming back but whether he makes the quarter-final we’re not sure yet.”

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