England's Borthwick keen for swift end to Vunipola, Farrell red card fall-outs

rugby19 August 2023 21:32| © AFP

England coach Steve Borthwick was left hoping for a rapid finish to rugby's often lengthy disciplinary procedures after Billy Vunipola joined Owen Farrell as a Rugby World Cup doubt by being sent off during a 29-10 warm-up loss to Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

As happened to Farrell last weekend, Vunipola saw his initial yellow card upgraded to a red by the recently introduced bunker review system.

Vunipola was dismissed for a head-high challenge on Andrew Porter early in the second half at Lansdowne Road.

That offence threatens Vunipola's involvement at a World Cup where he is the only specialist No 8 in England's squad for a tournament they start against Argentina in Marseille on September 9.

England kicked off without Farrell, the son of Ireland coach Andy Farrell, after Borthwick left the fly-half out of his matchday 23.

Farrell faces an independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday after World Rugby appealed against the controversial decision to downgrade his red card for a high shoulder-led challenge on Taine Basham during a 19-17 warm-up win over Wales at Twickenham to yellow.

Borthwick, refusing to be drawn on Vunipola's dismissal, said: "I'm not going to comment upon the incident specifically because it goes into a disciplinary process this coming week.

"Probably as every England fan, I feel disappointment in the game today and I said beforehand we want 15 players on the pitch for 80 minutes of every game.

"You're playing the No 1 ranked side in the world in their stadium and to go to 14 men it becomes a very difficult task at that point in time."

The former England captain added: "Hopefully we will find a conclusion on both matters this week and it won't go into another week. Once I have all the facts, I will deal with them."

England were already well behind before Vunipola's 53rd-minute sin-binning was upgraded.

Ireland scored five tries, all through their backs, with Bundee Aki, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe, Mack Hansen and Keith Earls – winning his 100th cap off the bench – all crossing England's line.

England managed a late try through replacement prop Kyle Sinckler.

But a fourth successive test without a try by one of their backs spoke volumes about England's attack.

- 'Good, bad and ugly' -

"While I'm incredibly disappointed with the result, the players kept fighting," said Borthwick.

He added: "When it was 15 against 15 it was a tight battle, unfortunately it didn't stay 15 on 15."

Ireland coach Andy Farrell was not entirely happy with his team's performance.

"It had a bit of everything: good, bad and ugly," he said.

"I wasn't too happy at halftime. We had them in a place where we could push a little bit harder and make it a little bit easier for ourselves but we didn't kick on.

"I was really pleased that we found or rhythm back into the game. I thought we scored some great tries.

"Obviously the story of the day is it's very fitting that Keith gets his 100th cap and we made sure he does that with a win and also him scoring a try in Keith Earls style in the corner just made the day for everyone really."