LONDON, 28 Sept - England have called up veteran number eight Nick Easter into their squad after Billy Vunipola was ruled out of the rest of the Rugby World Cup 2015 with a knee injury.
Vunipola had a scan on Monday on the knee ligaments which he damaged during England’s Pool A 28-25 defeat by Wales on Saturday. Coach Stuart Lancaster said Vunipola was likely to need up to six weeks to recover from the injury.
“It’s unfortunate for Billy,” Lancaster said. “He has worked really hard and committed everything to the last three months but he is a young man with a bright future ahead of him and he will be an integral part of this team for years to come.”
The 37-year-old Easter, who just missed out on a place in the final squad for the tournament, has been working at the World Cup as a touchline presenter for the stadium television coverage for fans at Twickenham. He will be the oldest player in the England squad.
Easter (pictured above), who returned to international rugby after a three-year break during this year’s Six Nations, played against France in one of England’s warm-up matches last month but just failed to make the 31-man squad.
“Nick was unlucky to miss out on final selection,” Lancaster said. “ He is a specialist number eight and an experienced player and we know he will make a big contribution.”
Vunipola played a key role against Wales, and England will miss his presence as they prepare for Saturday's clash with Australia at Twickenham, which they need to win to have a chance of staying in the tournament.
England are struggling with several other injuries ahead of the game against the Wallabies. Lock Courtney Lawes is nursing a knee injury while scrum-half Ben Youngs suffered a knock on his ankle against Wales and is doubtful.
Lancaster is also waiting to see if centre Jonathan Joseph has recovered from the chest injury which stopped him playing against Wales.