Hatley hails Vunipola return

Date published: March 6 2017

England scrum coach Neal Hatley has praised the influence of number eight Billy Vunipola, saying his return has given a boost to the squad.

Vunipola made his comeback from injury on Sunday, playing 70 minutes for his club side Saracens against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

The powerful back-row forward has been included in England’s 30-man squad to prepare for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Scotland at Twickenham, with head coach Eddie Jones naming his matchday 23 on Thursday.

“I thought Billy did well considering it was only his first game back,” Hatley told England Rugby about Vunipola’s performance for Saracens.

“He carried well and I thought it was a good performance for a guy who has been out as long as he has been.”

After that effort in the Premiership, Hatley feels that Vunipola has shown he’s fit enough to be part of the set up for the weekend – if selected.

“I think he has done enough to prove he should be in the squad,” he said. “It’s great to have that competition between him and Nathan Hughes. Nathan has gone really well for us.

“It’s just fantastic to have him back,” added Hatley.

“Billy brings a big boost to the squad and is a likeable character so he brings a lot of good energy and it’s a good confidence boost for the boys.

“He is similar to Nathan in that he brings good control at the base of the scrum and from a carrying point of view he is one of the top carriers around. He has real power and defensively he hits hard and is good over the ball.”

He continued: “Nathan has gone really well, he’s grown into the role. We’ve asked Nathan to do certain things, he has hit hard and carried hard and what he has done at the base has got better and better.”