Rugby-Vunipola red card throws another challenge at England, Borthwick says

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Billy Vunipola’s red card against Ireland has thrown another challenge into England’s stuttering World Cup preparations, coach Steve Borthwick said on Saturday, hoping to keep the disciplinary distractions to a minimum this week.

Vunipola’s dismissal for a high tackle similar to the one that landed Owen Farrell in prolonged disciplinary trouble means both players will likely learn of their World Cup fate this week with the captain’s independent appeal hearing set for Tuesday.

Borthwick hit out at the re-opening of Farrell’s case last week and said that it certainly did not help the preparations for Saturday’s test that ended in a 29-10 defeat.

“Hopefully we’ll find a conclusion on both matters this week. It won’t go another week and then once I have all the facts, I’ll deal with them,” Borthwick told a news conference, saying he could not comment on the incident as the disciplinary process had begun.

“We talked about the way this test week was disrupted and I needed to adapt throughout the week. We’ll need to next week, we already knew we had to, and it’s another challenge that’s been thrown at us.”

Borthwick said England clearly needed to work on converting opportunities in the final third having scored just four tries and conceded 20 in their last five games.

Stand-in captain Courtney Lawes said there were positives to take from the game ahead of next week’s final tune up at home to Fiji.

“It’s obviously very disappointing. The thing is if we just get certain things right in that game, it’s very different and they’re all things that we can control,” the loose-forward said.

“There’s obviously a lot of positives, which is great. If we tidy up a couple of areas we’ll be a much different team and prove we can hang with the best as long as we get them right.”

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)