Irish rugby journalist Ruaidhri O'Connor joined Monday Night Rugby to discuss Billy Vunipola.
At the same time that Eddie Jones was announced as the new Australia head coach, new England manager Steve Borthwick announced his provisional squad for the Six Nations.
The focus has been on Owen Farrell. And it will stay on Farrell when he returns from his suspension. But it's his Saracens teammate who is one of the big surprises from the announcement. Billy Vunipola has been in great form for Saracens but he will be playing Premiership rugby during February and March.
Vunipola was dropped by Jones previously. But it was never a permanent move and he is just 30 years of age. Vunipola has been a destroyer of opposition gameplans in the past. His physicality and ability as a ball-carrier breaks teams.
Sam Simmonds and Alex Dombrandt will likely compete for the starting eight spot in his stead.
Borthwick is expected to pick players based on their form in the Premiership, something that Jones didn't do. While Vunipola is in good form, presumably Borthwick simply views his alternate options as being in better form. Previous performances at international level might not carry as much weight as they did previously.
Ruaidhri O'Connor thinks England are weaker without Vunipola in the squad.
"He's playing well," O'Connor said.
"I was surprised by that. Saracens have been going so well that you would have thought leaning heavily back towards the Saracens heartland that got Jones so far...would have been a big thing. But [Vunipola is] not alone. Jack Nowell's not in there either.
"There's one or two others who you might have expected over the years.
"Eddie Jones was always criticized for not picking along Premiership form lines. He's gone with a lot of players who are playing well in the Premiership. Which will help him build a base of support there that Eddie Jones never seemed to care that he had or not.
"You fear England less without him: Billy Vunipola."
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