England are well prepared to risk beginning Billy Vunipola through the build-up into the World Cup from the belief he is at his best when playing.
Vunipola is the sole member of Eddie Jones’ squad that will all have established four Tests this summer after the Saracens number eight has been retained for Friday night’s match against Italy in Newcastle – live on Sky Sports.
Given the injury list which has scarred his career – such as three arms at 2018 – continually sending among Jones’ players to action in a streak of warm-up games might be regarded as a bet.
But forward coach Steve Borthwick insists that banking as numerous game moments is crucial for its 26-year-old as they seem to build momentum ahead of the World Cup in Japan.
“Billy absolutely wants to perform . He is a player who thrives on playing – that is the way you get the best out of him” Borthwick said.
“He really loves playing the game and does not want to miss any. Take a look at the back row – we’ve had bruises and some knocks. It is all about what’s right for every single participant.”
Vunipola’s Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell, who’ll lead England out at St James’ Park, stocks the view of Borthwick.
“Billy was playing really well and is trying to keep it moving. He loves putting the ball from his own hands,” Farrell said.
“It’s very important for him to be playing at the games where we have been involved within the last four weeks. He’s got a big grin on his face because of it.”
Meanwhile, Vunipola made his feelings apparent after Ireland had been thrashed 57-15 at Twickenham on August 24.
“I’m more than happy to keep going. After all my injuries and time away from the game, I’m just happy to be playing close to the amount I had been working at earlier,” Vunipola explained.
“It is all about keeping on building my fitnesscenter. If I could be fit and strong, I can help the team.”
Watch England vs Italy live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 7pm