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Mako Vunipola: England say prop was stood down on medical advice despite showing no symptoms

Saracens: Mako Vunipola could play against Leicester in the Gallagher Premiership at the weekend

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Mako Vunipola's absence explained by England forwards coach Steve Borthwick

Mako Vunipola was kept away from the England camp on medical advice after he travelled to Tonga via Hong Kong, according to forwards coach Steve Borthwick.

The Saracens prop, though, could play for his club at the weekend after they said he showed no symptoms for coronavirus.

Vunipola has been ruled out of Saturday's Six Nations match at Twickenham with Wales and could miss the rest of the tournament.

Borthwick says although Vunipola is not in self-isolation England have followed medical advice with their 24/7 camp environment contributing.

He said: "The advice from our medical team was that the right thing to do was for Mako not to join us. Mako is not ill. Mako is not in self-isolation but the precaution we were advised to take was for him not to come into camp because of the nature of our environment.

Mako Vunipola
Image: Mako Vunipola has been in Tonga for undisclosed family reasons

"Our doctor knows inside and out our environment. We're here in a camp 24 hours a day together and the relevant parties understand the situation. The medical team gave that advice and we are certainly going to follow that advice."

Vunipola returned to England from Tonga via Hong Kong but did return to Saracens' training ground on Tuesday despite England's fears.

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Saracens statement

A Saracens statement read: "Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola returned to Saracens after visiting family in Tonga, which included a short stop at Hong Kong Airport.

"Travellers returning from Hong Kong are not currently subject to mandatory quarantine or self-isolation unless they become symptomatic.

"Neither Billy or Mako have displayed symptoms of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and on their return to London were assessed by the club's medical staff.

"The duo have been around the Saracens environment for the past couple of days, with the latter available for selection this weekend.

"Saracens will continue to follow the Public Health England and World Health Organisation regulations surrounding coronavirus and the medical staff will be closely monitoring Billy and Mako on a regular basis."

Billy Vunipola
Image: Brother Billy Vunipola who also travelled to Tonga is injured

Billy Vunipola is currently out due to injury but Mako appeared set to feature for England this week - having missed the win over Ireland after travelling to Tonga for undisclosed family reasons.

He was named in an extended 34-man training squad on Monday but the Rugby Football Union then said on Tuesday he would not be joining up with the group.

An RFU spokesman said: "Mako is not in camp on medical grounds.

"He is not sick, but it is a precaution."

'Catch it, bin it, kill it'

Maro Itoje says England's players are being extra cautious in camp but that handshakes are yet to be banned.

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Maro Itoje says England's players are being extra cautious in camp but that handshakes are yet to be banned

A number of Premier League clubs have banned shaking hands and the Scottish FA have suspended pre and post-match traditional handshakes.

Itoje said: "There is a big emphasis on self-hygiene; washing your hands as often as possible, there's loads of disinfectant around, making sure we're clean and making sure if we have a little bug or something then don't spread to your team-mates.

"When I was at school they used to tell me 'catch it, bin it, kill it' and I think that still applies here.

"We are still shaking hands as of yet. We haven't done any elbow handshake or foot handshake. I have seen quite a few people have done that but I think we are still safe shaking hands."

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