Mako Vunipola free to play for club but not country as England stand him down
Mako Vunipola has been stood down from England’s Six Nations clash with Wales as a coronavirus precaution – but is set to play for his club instead.
Hours after England told him to stay away from their camp due to concerns arising from him having flown home from Tonga via virus-hit Hong Kong, Saracens passed him fit.
“Mako is not in camp on medical grounds,” a Rugby Football Union spokesperson said. “He is not sick, but it is a precaution.”
Yet Sarries medical team assessed the prop on his return to the club, adjudged that he was showing no symptoms, and decided that if England don’t want him to play at the weekend, they certainly do.
Instead of running out in front of 82,000 fans to play Wales and pick up a £25,000 match fee, the 29-year-old is now set to take on Leicester in a Premiership game for his already relegated club.
The bizarre turn of events completed a madcap couple of days for Vunipola, who returned home from the pacific island to learn that he had been recalled to Eddie Jones’ squad.
Soon after his selection England were alerted that his journey had taken him through Hong Kong, where there have been 100 confirmed cases, and ruled that it was better to air on the side of caution.
England were at first reluctant to elaborate on the absence of their Lions star, with forwards coach Matt Proudfoot labelling it a “medical issue between him and the doctor”.
Quizzed on the exact nature of that issue, he responded: “I can guarantee you it is not coronavirus.”
Yesterday’s development follows Ireland postponing their Six Nations game with Italy, scheduled for Saturday, to guard against any potential spread of the virus.
Tournament chiefs say that "as things stands” all other matches currently scheduled are “set” to go ahead.
But the fate of Ireland's clash with France in Paris on Saturday week could be known today as the French government plan to meet with all of its national sporting bodies.
A French Rugby spokesman said: "The French Rugby Federation is fully mobilised to respond as best as possible to the instructions issued by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health and by the Ministry of Sports.
"The position of the F.F.R. is perfectly clear: it will scrupulously apply the decisions of the competent authorities (government, ministries and prefectures in particular), and will endeavour to relay as soon as possible to the leagues and clubs the information it will receive."
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