England have been handed a major blow in their bid to win a first Six Nations championship since 2011 with the news back row forward Billy Vunipola will miss the rest of the tournament through injury.
The Saracens number eight sustained an ankle injury in his side’s bruising 13-10 win over Ireland and scans have revealed the player has suffered significant ligament damage.
“It is a blow as Billy has had a good Six Nations but he is young and will be back,” England head coach Stuart Lancaster told reporters.
Stuart Lancaster’s men are 4/9 to complete the clean sweep of victories over Scotland, Ireland and Wales at Twickenham on March 9th but they will now have to it without the ball carrying and offloading capabilities of Vunipola.
The forward will miss England’s crunch clash with Wales and the trip to Rome to face Italy as they bid to keep their title ambitions on track and attempt to win a first triple crown since 2003.
Ben Morgan, who replaced Vunipola from the bench at the weekend, is favourite to earn a call up for the clash with Warren Gatland’s side at Twickenham and England, who are 2/5 with Ladbrokes to beat Wales, will be hoping he can continue to make an impact but this time from the first whistle.
Morgan, who was courted by Wales on residency grounds before choosing to play for England, made 18 tackles and caused two turnovers against Ireland and made several barnstorming runs against France on the opening weekend of the championship.
And Lancaster, whose side are 11/8 favourites to win the Six Nations title, believes his squad has the strength in depth to cope with the loss of the influential Vunipola against a Welsh side who are 15/8 for an away victory.
“The encouraging thing is that we have Ben Morgan and other back rows such as Matt Kvesic and Tom Johnson who are all competing hard for places,” Lancaster said.
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