England will not take a risk with Billy Vunipola against France after the No 8 suffered a twisted ankle last weekend but remain hopeful he will play a further part in their World Cup campaign.
Vunipola has undergone a scan on his left ankle and was seen in a protective boot at the team hotel, despite claims from the England coaching staff on Monday that he did not require one. England are still not publicly ruling him out of appearing in his 13th consecutive Test of the year against France in Yokohama on Saturday but with qualification for the quarter-finals already assured it is almost certain he will be omitted. Mark Wilson, who was absent from the matchday 23, is standing by.
The 26-year-old Vunipola was not able to take part in Tuesday morning’s training session and, while England are keeping details to a minimum, they have opted against sending him home and summoning a replacement, suggesting a decision will be made on his availability for the knockout stages next week. “We are being overly cautious and if there is any risk that Billy is not going to be 100% we will rest him,” said England’s attack coach Scott Wisemantel.
Doubts have emerged, however, over whether Saturday’s match will go ahead with Super Typhoon Hagibis changing course and heading for Tokyo and Yokohama over the weekend. The typhoon had initially been set to cause disruption to Ireland’s key Pool A match with Russia in Fukuoka but now appears headed for the capital. Yokohama, where Japan face Scotland on Sunday, is also under threat for what has been described as the most explosive typhoon of the year by the Japanese meteorological agency.
Both England and France have already qualified for the quarter-finals, meaning there would be less of an impact on permutations if the match is cancelled and the result deemed to be a scoreless draw. Japan’s match against Scotland however is key in determining which two teams reach the last eight. World Cup organisers do have contingency plans, including potentially relocating matches to different venues, but if they end up being cancelled, both sides are awarded two points.
“Regarding the typhoon we have no control over the weather and we have to prepare for the game and see how it goes.” added Wisemantel. “Regarding the permutation around the game and shared points we are just concentrating on playing to win. I live in a bubble and I don’t know where the game would be played. One thing I have learnt in Japan is that they prepare for the worst and then usually it doesn’t eventuate.”