Thursday 14 December 2017

Mako Vunipola misses All Blacks clash due to knee injury

Mako Vunipola
Mako Vunipola

Duncan Bech

ENGLAND prop Mako Vunipola has been ruled out of Saturday's QBE International against New Zealand at Twickenham with a knee injury.

Vunipola missed Saturday's 31-12 victory over Argentina and the concluding match of the autumn has come too early for his return.

Joe Marler, his replacement against the Pumas, was concussed at Twickenham but could be ready in time to face the All Blacks.

"Mako won't be playing. Joe's going through the mandatory recovery for concussion, but we're hoping he'll be OK," head coach Stuart Lancaster said.

Alex Corbisiero will start against New Zealand with Marler supplying cover on the bench - if he recovers.

Scrum-half Ben Youngs has been given the all-clear from a hip complaint and Lancaster is optimistic wing Marland Yarde will recover from a hip problem of his own.

But Lancaster has revealed wing Christian Wade is "unlikely" to recover from a tight hamstring.

Lancaster refused to react to reminders from New Zealand, issued after they had beaten France 26-19 in Paris on Saturday, that they entered last year's Twickenham showdown drained by a virus that had struck during the week.

The All Blacks crashed to a record 38-21 defeat but while they refused to blame the result on illness at the time, coach Steve Hansen spoke of its impact over the weekend.

"We didn't have enough energy to compete with the English. We're hoping we don't get a virus again," he said.

Lancaster brushed aside the comment as England seek to complete their 10th victory in 11 matches.

"I'm sure they'll be motivated to play this game, they have an outstanding record this season and will be keen to finish off this northern hemisphere tour with two wins," he said.

"All I can control last year was our performance and I feel we performed well.

"It's a different New Zealand team we're facing this time. What happened last year is irrelevant."

New Zealand have lost just once in 33 matches - to England last autumn - dating back to August 2011.

"It's an unbelievable record, not just over this season but since the last World Cup," Lancaster said.

"There's certainly been no drop off in standards since the World Cup.

"If anything, they've gone up another level. They are rightfully number one in the world."

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