sport

Vunipola steps in for Marler

Mako Vunipola will start at loosehead prop for England in Saturday's Six Nations match against Italy, due to the unavailability of Joe Marler.

The Saracens player steps in because Marler will miss the final match of the campaign as his partner is expecting their first child.

With Alex Corbisiero recovering from a knee injury, England have promoted fourth-choice loosehead Matt Mullan to the bench in light of Vunipola's promotion.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster said: "It is important that Joe is with his partner at this exciting time.

"Family must always come first and everyone in the squad wishes them well. We have prepared for being without Joe and we have no doubt Mako will slot straight in and perform, as will Matt Mullan should he get an opportunity.

"Matt played in the autumn internationals. There's no problem with him, he's been involved right throughout the campaign. He's a good player to come on."

Fit-again Manu Tuilagi will be among the replacements for Saturday's encounter at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Leicester centre, who has not played for England for almost a year as he recovered from a pectoral muscle problem, has been named on the bench in place of Saracens back Alex Goode.

Tuilagi has played just 70 minutes for the Tigers since returning to action, but with England needing a deluge of tries in Rome, it is hoped Tuilagi's power will be influential in the attempted points grab.

David Wilson retains his place at tighthead with Dan Cole sidelined by a neck injury, spearheading the front row alongside Dylan Hartley and Mako Vunipola.

Significant result

"The Wales result was very significant for us but we need to finish the tournament well in Rome," Lancaster said.

"We have had a tight turnaround and the key this week has been to manage the players' recovery and get them in the best shape for what will be a tough match against Italy."

Wasps prop Matt Mullan and Bath centre Kyle Eastmond will travel with the squad to Rome as 24th and 25th men.

The Six Nations title is set to be decided on points difference this season, with Ireland, England and France all heading into the final weekend locked together on six points.

Ireland currently have the superior points advantage over England, although Joe Schmidt's team face a tough closing fixture against France.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 David Wilson, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Wood, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Ben Morgan.

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 George Ford, 23 Manusamoa Tuilagi.