Saracens have picked Mako Vunipola to start in this afternoon’s clash with Bath at Allianz Park despite their being an agreement between the RFU and Premiership clubs for mandatory rest periods.
The agreement is such that if a player plays in all five Six Nations matches and those appearances account for 80% of total aggregated minutes, then that player should be rested – Vunipola qualifies for this criteria – according to a report in The Guardian on Friday.
According to the Premiership Rugby website, the PGA states that: “Those [players] who play throughout the Six Nations, and pass a threshold of minutes played, will have one weekend off in the four weeks following the competition.”
Vunipola has been involved for Saracens in all fixtures since the Six Nations defeat to Ireland in Twickenham. He came on as a replacement against Harlequins the week after the Ireland game, he started against Leinster in the Champions Cup quarter-final and he also started last week’s win over the Northampton Saints.
He did go on holiday to Tenerife immediately after the Six Nations but still played a week later in the game against Quins.
Saracens don’t have a fixture next weekend due to them not being involved in the Champions Cup semi-finals so Vunipola will get a rest then, however, this is outside of the four-week window which qualifies the 27-year-old for a rest.
The issue around player welfare for England’s top players is a hot topic at the moment and it is slightly concerning that Saracens seem to have ignored a previously agreed policy.
It is understood that the RFU, according to the report, don’t have an issue with Vunipola playing this weekend because he did take a holiday.
Maro Itoje, who also qualifies for a rest, has not been named in the matchday 23 to take on Bath this afternoon.