England's best Billy Vunipola World Cup replacements after ban
By Rugby Onslaught

England’s best Billy Vunipola World Cup replacements after ban

England No8 Billy Vunipola has been banned for three games after his red card against Ireland on Saturday, meaning he will miss the opening match of the World Cup against Argentina.

The three match ban can be reduced to two if the Saracen attends tackle school, meaning Saturday’s match against Fiji and the Pumas contest at the World Cup are the only games he will miss.

This is quite a unique situation though as Billy Vunipola is the only No8 specialist in the England squad. Head coach Steve Borthwick therefore has to work out whether he sticks with the Saracen and plays a versatile back row forward like Ben Earl in his place until he returns, or whether he turns to another specialist at the back of the scrum. Fortunately for Borthwick, he has plenty of options. Here are some:

Alex Dombrandt 
Harlequins No8 Dombrandt spurned his chance to make England’s squad with a listless performance against Wales in Cardiff in England’s first World Cup warm-up, but this could suggest he was always seen as the next in line behind Vunipola.

Tom Willis 
The back-up behind Vunipola and Dombrandt in Borthwick’s initial World Cup training squad, Willis was a surprise inclusion and barely had a chance to impress after coming on from the bench in the match in Cardiff as well.

Zach Mercer
Gloucester’s new No8 Mercer was one of the shock omissions from England’s training squad, and while that means Dombrandt and Willis are surely ahead of him in the pecking order, his point of difference makes him a popular options amongst the England fandom. England’s lacklustre performances so far in August mean they are crying out for some dynamism and tempo, which Mercer provides.

Sam Simmonds
This is leftfield given the fact that Simmonds ruled himself out of contention a while ago and has already moved to Montpellier to fill the void left by Mercer. But the former Exeter Chiefs No8 is another point of difference with his pace and power, and England desperately need to do something different.