Mako Vunipola available for England’s Six Nations opener despite four-match ban

Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has received a four-match ban after being sent off against Gallagher Premiership opponents Newcastle.

Vunipola was dismissed during the closing stages of Saturday’s encounter following a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne.

He will miss Saracens’ Premiership appointments with Leicester and Exeter, plus Investec Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

Vunipola, though, will be available for England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome on February 3 if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to recall him.

And that could prove timely, given current injuries to England’s three World Cup squad loosehead props Ellis Genge, Joe Marler and Bevan Rodd.

Vunipola’s case was heard by an independent disciplinary panel.

“The player admitted that foul play took place, but not that it met the red card threshold,” the Rugby Football Union said.

“The panel upheld the charge and Vunipola received a four-match ban.

“He is ineligible to take part in World Rugby’s coaching intervention programme, having completed it in 2022.”

Had Vunipola not already done that programme, he could have applied on this occasion and then expected to have had one game subtracted from the suspension.