Billy Vunipola has been beasted in training for the past month in anticipation of his return from suspension for England’s World Cup clash with Japan.
Vunipola was banned for the final warm-up match against Fiji and Saturday’s 27-10 victory over Argentina that opened Pool D after being sent off for a dangerous tackle against Ireland last month.
The powerful Saracens number eight is expected to be involved in Sunday’s next group assignment in Nice, especially with Tom Curry facing a suspension for his red card against the Pumas.
To help prepare one of their most potent carriers after a four-week absence from the field, Vunipola has received special attention from head of strength and conditioning Aled Walters.
“Unfortunately for Billy he was handed over to Aled Walters, which is not a pleasant experience for him,” attack coach Richard Wigglesworth said.
“There’s a group of lads who are given extra conditioning, lads who maybe didn’t get many minutes or didn’t play.
“Unfortunately for Billy that’s been him every time for the last few weeks. Aled has been working him hard and he looks good to go.”
Vunipola could slot straight in at number eight against Japan, with Ben Earl either moving to openside to cover for Curry or being rested altogether.
“Billy has got great physical presence and it’s great to have him back on the training field,” Wigglesworth said.
“But he’s a really smart player as well – he puts himself in great positions and he’s got great hands. He’s got more threat than just being a big ball carrier.
“He’s really smart and knows when to shift the ball and change the point of contact for other players as well. It’s great for us to have him available.”
England are in high spirits following their astonishing rout of Argentina in Marseille that was engineered despite Curry’s third-minute yellow card being upgraded to red on review.
While there is an acceptance they must sharpen up their attack – butchering a four-on-two overlap was the most glaring of several toothless moments against the Pumas – they have a solid platform to build from.
Assisting their forward preparations is line-out expert George Kruis, the former England second row who won 45 caps from 2014-20 and who has linked up with the squad at their Le Touquet base.
“George has lost a lot of weight. He’s had a bit of stick for his weight,” Wigglesworth said of his retired former Saracens team-mate.
“He actually compared his body to mine, which, considering he was 117kg when he played, was not the best compliment for him.
“George helps with the line-out. Him and Steve Borthwick chat for hours behind closed doors and I really don’t want to listen to those conversations. They have a proper line-out nause off.
“He helps the callers and with the line-out menu that they get. All that detail that I don’t need to know.
“It’s great to have him around because he has an affinity with so many of the lads. It’s been really nice having him for a few days.”