Mako Vunipola of England has announced his retirement from international rugby after representing his country in 79 matches.
The England prop Mako Vunipola has announced his retirement from international rugby three weeks out from the start of the Six Nations with Steve Borthwick already facing severely depleted options on the loosehead side of the front row.
The Saracens player, who has earned 79 caps for England and participated in nine matches for the British and Irish Lions, will still compete in club rugby but announced on Friday that it is time to retire from the international scene.
“I have been honored to serve as a representative for my country, but as they say, all good things must come to an end,” stated the 32-year-old. “The time has come for me to step back now. There have certainly been ups and downs, and I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have supported me on this journey.”
Vunipola is currently suspended for four weeks after receiving a red card for a dangerous tackle against Newcastle on 30 December and missed the Rugby World Cup in France after failing to recover from a back injury in time for selection. Fellow loosehead props Joe Marler, Bevan Rodd and Val Rapava-Ruskin are also on the sidelines due to injury but there was more encouraging news for Borthwick before the England head coach announces his Six Nations squad next week in the form of a positive update from Bristol on the fitness of Ellis Genge.
Pat Lam, the head coach of Bristol, stated that Genge, who is being considered for the role of England captain, may be able to come back before the start of the Six Nations on February 2nd. He has been out of play since early December due to a hamstring injury.
Lam stated that Ellis has the opportunity to begin playing in the Six Nations. According to him, Ellis is making good progress and has already started running. He is expected to join the team in training next week and has noticeably gained muscle mass. Lam also noted that one advantage of being injured is the ability to focus on getting bigger, stronger, faster, and more powerful.
Earlier on Friday, ex-captain Will Carling stated that playing for England is no longer the ultimate achievement for players. He also implied that there may be other reasons behind Owen Farrell choosing not to play, rather than just social media harassment.
Carling strongly criticized the current state of the national team, expressing worry over young players choosing to play overseas and ruling themselves out for England. He also believes that playing for the national team does not carry the same importance as it did in his time.
Farrell declined to participate in the Six Nations last month, stating that his and his family’s mental health was his top priority. It has been rumored that he may join Racing 92 after the season ends, prolonging his absence from the England team.
Carling, who served as a leader under Eddie Jones during his time as head coach for England, shared on BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “It’s truly unfortunate, isn’t it? As a fan of rugby and a supporter of England, I can’t help but feel for a man who has shown immense passion, competitiveness, and pride while playing for his country.”
“Despite my initial belief that social media was the sole reason, I can’t help but wonder if there were other factors at play. It’s hard to fathom a man with such strong mental and physical fortitude leaving England without another underlying reason lingering in my thoughts.”
When asked to explain further, Carling responded by saying that there are a variety of issues at play. It is not just one player who has left England for France, but also younger players. Carling always found the opportunity to play for England to be incredibly appealing, so it is important to question why players are choosing to walk away from their national team. Playing for your country should still be the ultimate goal and something that players enjoy and want to return to. However, it is clear that this is not currently the case.
Although Farrell’s future with the England team is uncertain, several other players from the World Cup squad will not be available for the Six Nations due to their move to France. These include Henry Arundell, Joe Marchant, David Ribbans, and Jack Willis. Carling believes that the English game should be the top destination for talented players, both English and foreign, and that changes need to be made in the management of the sport.
“Let’s face it – the state of the game has been poor for quite some time. This has led to its current situation. We must shift our perspective and focus on creating a game that motivates young players.”
Scotland’s chief executive, Mark Dodson, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down in the summer. Despite his contract being set to expire in 2025, Dodson denied that external pressure related to the Scottish Rugby Union’s handling of the death of women’s Test player Siobhan Cattigan played a role in his decision.
Dodson’s announcement comes two months after the governing body apologised – via a statement from recently-appointed chair John McGuigan – for the way it dealt with the death of 26-year-old Cattigan in November 2021.
Cattigan’s relatives stated that her health deteriorated significantly due to undetected brain damage caused by playing rugby. They also expressed disappointment with Scottish Rugby for not informing some of her teammates about the family’s desire for them to attend her funeral and for not honoring her at an international match until 18 months after her passing.
Dodson stated that there is no correlation between the events. He acknowledged that it was a distressing situation and has been a challenging period for everyone involved, but it did not influence his decision.
The individual, who is 63 years old and has caused division during their 13-year tenure, stated, “There were various factors that influenced my choice. After returning from the World Cup, my family and I considered carefully and decided it was appropriate for the next World Cup cycle to be managed by someone who will remain until the end.”