England face Rugby World Cup selection blow as Billy Vunipola is SENT OFF for dangerous tackle in mauling by Ireland
BRAINLESS Billy Vunipola saw red and his World Cup could be in tatters — as England’s card curse continued during this Dublin drubbing.
The 30-year-old Saracens star charged Ireland’s Andrew Porter with his shoulder – striking his opponent’s head.
He was sin-binned before an off-field review upgraded his yellow card to a red.
It means that Vunipola could be banned for the World Cup.
It was deja vu for boss Steve Borthwick as the same happened to Owen Farrell against Wales last week — and his France 2023 campaign is still hanging by a thread.
It is another body blow for Borthwick, who picked Vunipola as the only specialist No 8 in his 33-man squad for France.
Vunipola, 30, will face an automatic disciplinary hearing but is staring down the barrel of at least a three-match ban.
That would see him miss England’s opening two Pool D matches against Argentina and Japan — if Borthwick keeps him in the squad.
The decision added to England’s frustration as they were defeated 29-10 at the Aviva Stadium.
The hosts scored five tries as the hosts played with 14 men.
A late rally saw the scoreline look more respectable, but in truth it was a comfortable win for the Irish in a game that was over-shadowed by Vunipola’s moment of recklessness.
The Red Rose boss said: “I spoke to Billy very briefly in the changing room and, clearly, he is disappointed.
“We want to keep players on the pitch for 80 minutes of every game. When you go to 14 men against Ireland it becomes very, very difficult.
“Both (defence coach) Kevin Sinfield and myself have gone on record about how important correct tackling skills are.”
Lock Maro Itoje defended his team-mate, saying: “We know he didn’t do it on purpose. In rugby these things happen at such pace.”
England might have survived Storm Betty on Friday but they were battered by Storm Ireland and their World Cup campaign looks finished before it starts.
The world’s No 1 team served up a harsh lesson and time is running out on Borthwick to fix things before heading to France ahead of their September 9 opener.
England had no ambition in attack, went missing at vital times in defence, their set-piece wobbled and their kicking game was AWOL.
Their discipline was shocking as well — Vunipola’s was their third red card in three matches.
Red Rose skipper Farrell sat out the game ahead of his appeal hearing against his downgraded red card.
Rugby bosses have to jump through a load of legal hoops to get Farrell banned and, on the quiet, do not think they can do it.
But even Farrell might not be able to save his team if he escapes a ban.
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