Billy Vunipola set to depart Saracens after being dropped by England - Ruck

Billy Vunipola set to depart Saracens after being dropped by England

Reports today suggest that Saracens number 8 Billy Vunipola is set to depart the club and country after being dropped by Steve Borthwick ahead of the Six Nations.

According to The Rugby Paper, he is likely going to secure a move to either France or Japan after Saracens announced on Thursday that Tom Willis will join the club for next season.

Whilst at the London school, he was picked up by Wasps Academy where he made his senior debut aged 18 and featured 30 times in two seasons before departing for Saracens.

Vunipola’s destructive performances earned him the Premiership Land Rover Discovery of the Season in a campaign which the Men in Black broke the Premiership record for points accumulated in a regular term.

A growing influence year on year, the England international eclipsed 150 matches for the Men in Black in 2022 and has become an integral part of the Sarries squad.

Excelling at club level has allowed Vunipola to express himself on the international stage with England, making his debut on the 2013 Summer Tour of Argentina. He has since amassed over 60 caps.

DID YOU KNOW? Billy comes from a rich vein of rugby talent. His father and uncle played for Tonga while cousin Taulupe Faletau has been capped by Wales and British & Irish Lions. Brother Mako, also a Lion, is a Saracens and England teammate and younger cousin Manu made his senior Sarries debut in the 2018/19 campaign.

Six huge England stars among those to miss out on 2023 Six Nations

Steve Borthwick has announced his first selected squad, as the newly appointed England Head Coach. In nineteen days time, England will host Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, as they compete for the Calcutta Cup, in the opening match of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

At today’s England Rugby press conference, Borthwick discussed the difficult squad selection process, and recognised that there are notable absentees from the squad.

“Well, I think the door for any player is open. What we want, and what everyone is the room would want, is an England squad where you have got players competing for places. The selections that we… and believe me, we have sat for hours haven’t we. We have sat for hours discussing this selection, and going through it. It should be that way.”

“It should be tough to select. And then, there will be good players, really high quality players, who are not selected, as well as all the players that are in. Now, that’s what we want, and our job is to select as well as we can and coach them to the very, very best of our abilities.”

So, following on from today’s squad announcement, lets look over six England players who missed out on selection, for the Six Nations curtain raiser.

  1. Billy Vunipola

A consistent name on the team sheet throughout Eddie Jones’ time in charge of England, Vunipola misses out on Borthwick’s first squad selection. Due to the untimely injury of Tom Curry, it was expected that the Saracen may populate a back-row slot in the squad, but Borthwick looked elsewhere.

The new Head Coach has instead opted for a back-row contingent which includes Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs heavy hitters, Alex Dombrandt and Sam Simmonds, as well as the side-lined Tom Curry’s younger brother Ben. The 2022 Premiership Player of the Year Ben Earl, who was criminally overlooked for England throughout the Eddie Jones era, is also selected in the squad.

Billy Vunipola of England in possession ahead of Kazuki Himeno of Japan during the Autumn International Series match between England and Japan at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on Saturday 12th November 2022 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

Billy Vunipola has made 68 caps for England, and was a prominent feature at number eight since 2013. A famed ball carrier, capable of bull-dozing over defenders, Vunipola was a fan favourite at his England peak, scoring eight tries. However with so many talented back-rowers competing for places, it is speculated by many that Billy has played his last game for England.

2. Jack Nowell

The Exeter Chief’s flying winger has been a feature of the England set-up since 2011. Numerous injuries halted Nowell’s international consistency, yet expectations were promising for the Cornishman to be included in the latest Six Nations squad.

There has been great speculation around Nowell’s future with the Chiefs, as he is expected to be departing Sandy Park come the end of the season. His England career has now also come under questioning, with Borthwick today confirming that the 29-year-old will miss out on the Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Nowell last wore the rose in the latest Autumn Internationals, with starting appearances against Argentina and the All Blacks, before being dropped to the bench for the clash against South Africa. Nowell replaced Tommy Freeman, playing the entire second half against the reigning World Champions, in his last England cap.

Borthwick selected the aforementioned Freeman, as well as the exciting duo of London Irish’s Ollie Hassall-Collins, and Harlequins’ Cadan Murley, as out-and-out wingers.

Henry Slade of England and Jack Nowell, Vice Captain of England after the Autumn Nations Series Match between England and Argentina at Twickenham Stadium on 6 November 2022. Photo: Frankie OKeeffe/PPAUK