Wednesday 21 February 2018

Injury scare for Lions hopeful Mako Vunipola

Mako Vunipola during the RBS Six Nations Championship match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Ashley Western - CameraSport via Getty Images)
Mako Vunipola during the RBS Six Nations Championship match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by Ashley Western - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Duncan Bech

Mako Vunipola was withdrawn from Saracens' 40-19 rout of Harlequins at Wembley as a precautionary measure, according to director of rugby Mark McCall.

Vunipola lasted only four minutes into the second half before being replaced because of a knee injury, giving British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland a scare ahead of the squad announcement for the tour to New Zealand on April 19.

The England prop is a certainty for Lions selection if fit and McCall revealed that he was taken off to avoid any risk ahead of the Champions Cup semi-final against Munster in Dublin in a fortnight.

"Mako took a little bang to his knee just before half-time and felt a little bit uncomfortable," McCall said.

"We don't think it's anything serious at all, but we just wanted to be sensible with the big game coming up in two weeks' time."

Chris Ashton, Schalk Brits, Michael Rhodes and Alex Goode crossed to secure the bonus-point win that guarantees Saracens an eighth successive appearance in the Aviva Premiership play-offs.

The double winners are now positioned only one point adrift of second-placed Exeter and after thumping victories over Bath, Glasgow and Harlequins, they are generating momentum at the decisive phase of the season.

"This was a hugely pleasing performance because we're going big game after big game after big game," said McCall.

"Sunday's game against Glasgow was big for us, so to show the qualities that we did was superb, although not everything we did was perfect.

"The effort we put in - we had a huge defensive effort especially in the second half. I thought the players were magnificent.

"The first seven months of the season are about getting into strong positions in the competition we're interested in and now there are a lot of things to be excited about."

Harlequins' ambitions of finishing in the top four were dealt a blow with three matches remaining and director of rugby John Kingston could only admire the champions' performance.

"Once Saracens get ahead on the scoreboard it becomes very difficult and they're very good at taking advantages of your mistakes. They deserved it," Kingston said.

"They're difficult to break down and they take the laws to the limit, but they're an incredibly physical side and we ran into a brick wall. They're a great side at the moment."

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