Billy Vunipola: England and Saracens back-row forward suffers injury setback

Billy Vunipola
Saracens and England have both missed the ball-carrying ballast of Billy Vunipola this season

England and Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola has suffered another setback in his bid to recover from a catalogue of injury problems.

Vunipola felt a tight hamstring during training with Saracens on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old, who returned in last Sunday's win over London Irish after four months out with a broken arm, is set to miss Saturday's Gloucester game.

Injuries have kept Vunipola out of England duty for more than a year, including shoulder and knee issues.

Saracens boss Mark McCall says it is too early to say whether this latest concern will curtail Vunipola's chances of making the England tour of South Africa this summer.

At this stage, McCall hopes the player will return to contention in time for Sarries' bid for the Premiership title, with a home play-off semi-final against either Wasps or Newcastle to come.

"[The hamstring] hasn't been pulled or anything as far as I know," McCall told BBC 5 live.

Billy Vunipola

"There are two and a half weeks until the semi-final, so all things considered it's probably best he doesn't play this weekend.

"If anyone has a hamstring tightness on Wednesday, it wouldn't be the most sensible thing to play him [on Saturday].

"Maybe having not played rugby for a long time, these kind of things can happen quite easily."

Vunipola's miserable run of injuries dates back to the Rugby World Cup of 2015 when he suffered knee ligament damage against Wales in the pool stages, ruling him out of the tournament.

A year later, in the autumn of 2016, he missed a chunk of the season following more knee damage, before returning for the end of the 2017 Six Nations and Sarries' retention of the European Champions Cup.

But a long-running shoulder problem forced Vunipola out of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, before further fresh knee and arm injuries this season means he has been reduced to just 249 minutes of action since last May.

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