Bench role for Vunipola against Italy

Date published: February 21 2017

Saracens prop Mako Vunipola will make his first appearance of the Six Nations from the bench against Italy this weekend.

Vunipola played 70 minutes in his first game for nine weeks last Friday in the Premiership against Gloucester and has since returned to England's training base ahead of the return of the Six Nations.

Joe Marler has started against France and Wales in Vunipola's absence, with England winning both matches.

Vunipola started the majority of England's Tests throughout 2016, including the series win over Australia and all four November Tests.

"Mako got a few more minutes than was probably expecting against Gloucester, but he did exceptionally well," scrum coach Neil Hatley said.

"He played well and scrummaged well. He carried the ball one hell of a lot for them. That will stand him in good stead.

"It's great to have Mako back. To have two looseheads of that quality is a privilege – we have one to start and one to call off the bench.

"Joe has been absolutely outstanding. He scrummaged unbelievably well in the first few games and defensively he's been red hot."

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