England are prepared to risk starting Billy Vunipola through the build-up to the World Cup from the belief he is at his best when playing regularly.
Vunipola is the sole member of Eddie Jones’ 31-man squad who will all have begun four Tests after the Saracens number eight has been held at Newcastle for Friday night’s match against Italy – live on Sky Sports.
Given the extensive injury list that has scarred his latest profession – such as three broken arms in 2018 – always sending among Jones’ players to action in a streak of warm-up games can be seen as a bet.
But forward coach Steve Borthwick insists that banking as game moments as possible is crucial for its 26-year-old as they seem to build momentum before their World Cup.
“Billy absolutely wishes to perform with. He is a player who thrives on playing – that is the way you get the best out of him,” Borthwick said.
“He loves playing with the game and doesn’t wish to overlook any. Have a look at the row that is rear – we’ve had bruises and some knocks. It is about what’s right for every single player.”
Vunipola’s Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell, who will lead England out at St James’ Park, stocks Borthwick’s view.
“Billy was playing very well and is hoping to keep it moving. He loves putting the ball in his own hands,” Farrell said.
“It is very important for him to be playing the games in which we have been involved over the last four months. He has got a big grin on his face for this.”
Vunipola left his feelings apparent after Ireland had been thrashed.
“I’m more than happy to keep going. After all my injuries and time away from the sport, I am just happy to be playing close to the level I had been operating at before,” Vunipola said.
“It is all about keeping on building my fitness. If I could be fit and strong, I will help the team.”
Watch England vs Italy reside on Main Event and Sky Sports Action from 7pm

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