Mako Vunipola targets World Cup as prop returns to England fold

Mako Vunipola targets World Cup selection as Saracens prop receives first England call-up in over a year.. but brother Billy remains exiled from Eddie Jones’ squad

  • Mako Vunipola was delighted to receive a recall to Eddie Jones’ England Squad 
  • Saracens star eyeing selection for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France
  • Vunipola never gave up hope of recall despite falling out of favour with Jones

Mako Vunipola joined up with Eddie Jones’s England for the first time in more than a year yesterday and had a message for his doubters.

He is not done yet. Far from it, in fact.

‘I want to play at the World Cup and I haven’t shied away from that,’ said the 31-year-old Saracens prop.

Mako Vunipola is delighted to have been called up to Eddie Jones’ England Squad

‘I enjoyed the last World Cup. Obviously we fell short, but it was one of the best campaigns I’ve been a part of with England. I want to do that again, but I also want to win the World Cup.’

A Test regular since his 2012 debut, Vunipola found himself jettisoned by Jones last autumn when he was dropped for the November Tests. He was also left out of this year’s Six Nations.

Jones questioned whether some of his senior men — those who had been among his most trusted lieutenants — had the drive to make the next World Cup in France in 2023.

Despite playing in all three Tests for the British & Irish Lions in South Africa last summer, Vunipola was among the victims. His brother Billy was also a high-profile casualty.

But after recovering from an ankle injury and stringing together a run of games for Saracens, the older of the two Vunipolas is now back in head coach Jones’s party and determined to make up for lost time.

The 31-year-old prop has impressed this season leading Saracens to the Premiership play-off

England head coach Eddie Jones has rewarded Vunipola for his form this season for Saracens

‘You always have a point to prove,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think my time was gone. At my age you can’t take it for granted. As a player your ambition is to always play at the highest level and that’s playing for England. I’ve never hid away from the fact I want to play for England.

‘That’s why I wanted to stay at Saracens — one because I love the club and two because I want to put my hand up for selection constantly for England. For me to play for England I have to play in England and I’m not ready to hang my boots up yet. I’m ready to fight for my position.’

Vunipola’s hunger will be music to Jones’s ears.

Ellis Genge and Joe Marler have been the Australian’s premier loosehead choices in the last 12 months as he has looked to build a ‘new England’.

But after a Six Nations campaign of just two wins for the second successive year, England look a long way from World Cup contenders as their summer tour to Australia approaches.

Vunipola is now back in the frame to face the Wallabies in July and feature for England for the first time since the March 2021 defeat by Ireland.

‘The focus is on playing well for Saracens and working on what the coaches have wanted me to work on, which they’ve been clear and honest about,’ said Vunipola.

‘It’s up to me to get out there and put my best foot forward — that’s all I can do.’

Vunipola and his brother — who helped England to the 2019 World Cup final before being cast aside by Jones — committed their futures to Saracens in December.

Vunipola brothers Mako (centre) and Billy (right) lining up for England in 2019

No 8 Billy remains in international exile.

‘The messages are clear. The coaches have given us things to work on,’ said Mako. ‘For him (Billy) he’s missed out this time but all he can do is play well for the club and I think he’s done that for the most part.’

The Vunipola’s helped Saracens seal a home Premiership play-off with victory over Northampton on Saturday and they look set to host defending champions Harlequins in the last four.

After a season in the Championship following the salary-cap saga, you wouldn’t bet against Mark McCall’s men ending their first campaign back in the top flight with the Premiership title.

‘If you’d told me we’d finish in the top two I’d have bit your hand off. Having had the year we had last year and coming back in with a new squad there was a lot of experience we lost.

‘When you put 40 points on a team as good as Northampton, it’s a good thing when you know there is more out there.’

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