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England's pack in a pickle after star prop makes surprising retirement call: 'All good things must come to an end'

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12th January, 2024
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England and British and Irish Lions prop Mako Vunipola has announced that he’s retiring from international rugby.

Vunipola amassed 79 caps in a career that began in 2012 and also made nine Test appearances for the Lions.

The 32-year-old Saracens forward missed last year’s World Cup because of back surgery but was expected to be involved in the upcoming Six Nations.

“It’s been an honour to have represented my country but all good things must come to an end,” he said on Instagram.

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“The time has come to step away now. There have been lots of highs and lows. Would love to thank everyone who have helped me along the way.

“To my wife @alex_vunipola thank you for taking care of our family and all your support. Words don’t do it justice.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Englands Mako Vunipola grimaces at the end of the match during the Six Nations Rugby match between England and France at Twickenham Stadium on March 11, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Mako Vunipola. (Photo by Andrew Kearns – CameraSport via Getty Images)

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“To my parents I’m eternally grateful for all you have sacrificed for me to be here. Malo aupito and Ofa atu. God is good.”

Vunipola is currently serving a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle made while on club duty for Saracens against Newcastle on December 30.

The suspension ends just before the Six Nations, which would have made him available for England’s opener against Italy in Rome on February 3.

And with Steve Borthwick facing an injury crisis at loosehead prop, Vunipola was expected to be fully involved until his surprise decision to step away from the Test arena.

Joe Marler, Ellis Genge and Bevan Rodd – England’s three loosehead at the World Cup last autumn – are injured.

Marler’s return date is unknown, Genge could make the trip to Rome but Rodd misses the entire tournament.

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England will struggle to fill Vunipola’s boots as a powerful yet skilful front row who possesses a sharp rugby brain.

The New Zealand-born forward of Tongan heritage, who frequently played in the same Red Rose pack as younger brother Billy, is a potent carrier whose scrummaging has been an occasional vulnerability.

© AAP

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