Despite being handed a four-match ban, Mako Vunipola remains available for selection by England in the Six Nations.

The Saracens and England prop Mako Vunipola has been given a four-match suspension after being sent off in a Premiership match against Newcastle.

Vunipola was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Newcastle hooker Bryan Byrne towards the end of the game on Saturday. As a result, he will miss Saracens’ upcoming Premiership matches against Leicester and Exeter, as well as their Champions Cup games against Bordeaux-Begles and Lyon.

However, Vunipola will be eligible to play in England’s Six Nations opener against Italy on 3 February if head coach Steve Borthwick decides to include him in the squad, which could be a timely boost due to injuries to other loosehead props in the World Cup squad.

The independent disciplinary panel heard Vunipola’s case. The Rugby Football Union stated, “The player admitted to committing a foul, but not to meeting the criteria for a red card. The panel agreed with the charge and handed Vunipola a four-match ban. He is not allowed to participate in World Rugby’s coaching intervention program since he already completed it in 2022.”

If Vunipola hadn’t already completed the program, he could have applied for it on this occasion and potentially had one game deducted from his suspension.

In the meantime, Exeter boss Rob Baxter has praised Henry Slade’s impact on the Chiefs this season and believes he should be considered for an England recall. Borthwick surprised many by leaving out Slade, who has been capped 56 times, from his World Cup squad. However, Slade has responded well and played a crucial role in Exeter’s second-place position in the Premiership table. He is currently the Premiership’s top points-scorer, making him a key figure on and off the field.

Borthwick will announce his squad for the Six Nations later this month, and Baxter said, “I am confident that Henry is in the mix for selection. There are several centers performing well, but I am certain he will be considered. That’s why it’s important for him to continue playing at the high level he has been.”

“He has a couple of weeks now, with important matches coming up. The top-of-the-table clash against Northampton on Saturday is a huge opportunity for him to make a statement. Then we have European Cup rugby in the following weeks. There are significant opportunities for Sladey to prove himself, and I am confident he will make the most of them.”

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