Rugby Union Expert & Columnist
Billy Vunipola injury the biggest blow England could suffer, says Stuart Barnes
Watch England's autumn internationals live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 16/10/18 3:32pm
Sky Sports' Stuart Barnes reflects on the broken arm that has ruled England's Billy Vunipola out of the autumn internationals.
I think the injury to Billy Vunipola is probably the single biggest blow that England could have suffered ahead of the autumn internationals.
If you watched England in the summer or in the Six Nations, without Billy Vunipola they had problems winning the gain line and their first two matches in November are against the Springboks and the All Blacks when the gain line will be such a key battle.
It's similar to the situation with Manu Tuilagi, you get the sense that the jinx of injury has got Vunipola in its grip and whenever he plays you wonder if he is going to get through the game.
That's a massive concern for England, not just for the autumn internationals but moving ahead into the Six Nations and, dare I say it, the World Cup.
People may say that Manu Tuilagi's coming back, but my view is let's see him put three, four, five games together first and I'm afraid we have to start saying the same thing that about big Billy now because of this injury curse.
What you have got to remember is that, like Tuilagi, he is an extremely physical player in everything he does.
I think it is three broken arms now in the last year or so. I don't know if it is bad luck, I think we would need a surgeon to help us with that one.
All I do know is that the absence of this man is vast, much more so than Tuilagi who would be a bonus for England.
Against Glasgow Warriors at the weekend, I loved the way Vunipola used the threat of his power to draw defenders and create space with lovely hands and when he ran hard he ran well.
Following the injury to Exeter's Sam Simmonds and what we expect will be a suspension for Wasps' Nathan Hughes, some might say Eddie Jones is now facing a crisis, but he has got to say 'No'.
England have got a large pool of professionals and there are still some good players available.
Before the weekend I was talking about Bath's Zach Mercer who is a different kind of No 8 but he has got the footwork to get himself over the gain line.
Social media in the west country is screaming for Ben Morgan's recall and he has played well recently for Gloucester but the leap from that to international rugby is big and I think Jones worries about his work rate.
Then you have got two Exeter players as possible replacements.
First there is Matt Kvesic, who I think is a better number seven but played No 8 at the weekend against Munster.
Then there is Don Armand, who I think is a better No 8 than a number seven but who played really well as an openside at the weekend.
I often think Armand is very good in the Exeter system but on Saturday, when they weren't dominant against the Munster pack, I thought he was the one forward who broke the gain line, offloaded and carried well.
That performance pushed him towards the forefront of my mind.
So is it a crisis? Perhaps not as there are so many players to pick from but from a supporters' point of view, having lost your best player, the answer is yes, it is.
#Followtherose this autumn as all of England's Tests are live on Sky Sports throughout November and the series starts on with Saturday 3 November against South Africa before clashes against New Zealand, Japan and Australia.