England's Billy Vunipola faces fitness race for start of Six Nations after knee surgery

James Benge
Injury woes: Vunipola left the pitch just before half-time: Getty Images

Saracens forward Billy Vunipola will miss England autumn internationals and faces a race to be fit for the start of the Six Nations with a knee cartilage injury that will rule him out for four months.

Vunipola left the field late in the first half of Saracens’ 41-13 win over Sale on Saturday only a week after returning from the shoulder surgery that had forced him out of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

The No.8 underwent surgery on his right knee on Sunday morning.

Mark McCall, Saracens Director of Rugby, said: “For any team to lose a player of the ability of Billy is a blow and he will be missed through the autumn for both Saracens and England.

“It’s desperately disappointing for him, considering how hard he has worked during the offseason to get back to full fitness, but Billy is a resilient character and he’ll have a strong support network around him to get him back on the field in the best possible shape.

“What’s now important for Billy is his recovery and we look forward to his return later this season.”

Earlier today Harlequins No.8 Jack Clifford was called into Eddie Jones’ England training camp in Oxford as a replacement for Vunipola.

England will play Argentina (November 11), Australia (November 18) and Samoa (November 25) in their autumn series. The 2018 Six Nations begins for England in Italy on February 4.