Mako Vunipola is set to be available for England’s opening clash of the Six Nations against Italy, despite being handed a four-match ban in the English Premiership. The prop was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Newcastle Falcons hooker Bryan Byrne, in his side Saracens’ 37-19 win. England’s governing Rugby Football Union has revealed that foul play took place, as confirmed by the independent disciplinary panel. The panel upheld the charge, and Vunipola received a four-match ban. Fortunately for Vunipola, suspensions will take place across both the Premiership and Champions Cup, meaning he will miss Saracens’ Premiership matches against Leicester and Exeter as well as their Champions Cup fixtures with French teams Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon. This will mean he will be available to play the week of England’s first match against Italy. This will be a huge relief for England coach Steve Borthwick, as several of his other options at loosehead – Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, and Bevan Rodd – are all injured. However, Vunipola will likely not have played any games before the February 3 fixture at Stadio Olimpico. Antoine Dupont Is set to take part in the France Sevens program ahead of two world circuit sevens events in Vancouver in February and Los Angeles in March. His move to the sevens format will see him miss out on the 2023 Six Nations, as he looks to chase Olympic glory in Paris in July this year. Fiji currently have a stranglehold on the Olympic format of the sevens, having won both gold medals in the men’s tournament since it was introduced into the Olympics. However, Dupont is hoping to achieve France’s biggest sevens result since winning the France Sevens in 2005. The England men’s rugby union team have decided to end their twenty-year relationship with their union, the Rugby Players Association. The RPA represents over 800 active male and female players, along with more than 400 former players. However, in 2020, England prop Kyle Sinckler announced plans to start a new union to gain better “support and legal advice” for elite players. The RPA will continue to represent the England men until the end of this current season, and has confirmed it will continue to support players away from the England men’s side. The Western Force Super W has signed Black Ferns loose forward Pia Tapsell and fullback Sheree Hume for their upcoming campaign in an effort to chase a maiden Super W title. Despite missing out on finals, the Force showed significant growth in the 2023 Super W season and have already re-signed Wallaroos pair Michaela Leonard and Trilleen Pomare. The Force will kick off their Super W campaign against the Melbourne Rebels in Perth on Friday, March 15, as part of a double header with the men’s side, who take on Moana Pasifika.

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