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England and Saracens pair Vunipola and Itoje to return

Credit: PA

Saracens and England have received a major double boost with Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje returning from injury on Sunday.

Powerful number eight Vunipola has been sidelined since September because of a knee injury, raising concerns that he might not be fit for the start of this season's NatWest 6 Nations.

Lock Itoje, meanwhile, broke his jaw a month ago, but Saracens have announced both players in their starting line-up for the Ricoh Arena appointment with Wasps.

It also means they are available for Saracens' final two European Champions Cup pool fixtures against Ospreys and Northampton, with the holders realistically needing victory in both matches to keep alive quarter-final ambitions.

Vunipola missed the British and Irish Lions' New Zealand tour last summer because of a shoulder problem, but his latest comeback begins a month before England's Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome.


Wales wing North suffers knee injury

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Wales wing George North has suffered another knee injury and will be sidelined for up to a month.

It means that North, who only returned to action last Saturday following an 11-week absence because of knee trouble, faces a race to be fit for Wales' NatWest 6 Nations opener against Scotland on February 3.

"George North sustained an injury to his knee during Saints' defeat to Harlequins on Saturday at Twickenham which will require up to four weeks' rehabilitation," Northampton said in a statement."

North suffered a knee injury while on European Champions Cup duty in October, which ruled him out of Wales' four autumn Tests.

His latest setback, which came after he went on as a replacement against Quins, means he is set to miss Saints' Aviva Premiership clash against Gloucester on Saturday, plus Champions Cup appointments with Clermont Auvergne and Saracens.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is already without injured British and Irish Lions Sam Warburton and Jonathan Davies for all of Wales' Six Nations campaign.

Number eight Taulupe Faletau, meanwhile, is another injury absentee who is unlikely to be fit before March, and both flanker Dan Lydiate and wing Hallam Amos suffered injuries last weekend.

Northampton's recently-appointed technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney added: "While it is disappointing that George will be missing ahead of Saturday's game, this injury means an opportunity for another player in the squad to step up to the plate.

"I'm sure George will be diligent in his rehab, and we all wish him a swift recovery."

Farrell voted best player by Rugby World Magazine

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England playmaker Owen Farrell has been voted the game's best player by Rugby World magazine.

Farrell is joined in the top 10 by international colleague Maro Itoje with Courtney Lawes the next highest-placed member of Eddie Jones' squad at 17th.

New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett - the reigning world player of the year - is second and Fiji lock Leone Nakarawa third.

Top 10: 1) Owen Farrell, 2) Beauden Barrett, 3) Leone Nakarawa, 4) Maro Itoje, 5) Israel Folau, 6) Stuart Hogg, 7) Jonathan Davies, 8) Michael Hooper, 9) Tadhg Furlong, 10) Brodie Retallick.


Tuilagi faces immediate ban after return from injury

Manu Tuilagi faces the prospect of being banned immediately after making his return from the latest injury setback. Credit: PA

Manu Tuilagi faces the prospect of being banned immediately after making his return from the latest injury setback to have blighted his career.

Tuilagi has been cited for an alleged dangerous tackle on Chris Cloete in Leicester's 25-16 Champions Cup defeat by Munster at Welford Road on Sunday and must appear before an independent disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.

The entry-point sanction for a dangerous tackle is two weeks, the mid-range six weeks and the top end 10 weeks to a year.

New Zealand's Julian Savea considering rugby league switch

Julian Savea is considering switching codes to play rugby league after being dropped by the All Blacks Credit: PA

New Zealand winger Julian Savea is considering switching codes to play rugby league after being dropped by the All Blacks.

Savea, who is just three short of Doug Howlett's All Blacks record of 49 tries, has not featured for his country since the drawn series against the British and Irish Lions in July.

When asked about switching from union to rugby league, the 27-year-old told "It's always been in the back of my mind."

Savea said he would "definitely think about it" and added he would have to "weigh up the pros and cons and what's best for my family".

"The All Blacks is the end goal but not a real focus at the moment," he added.

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