England v France, February 23, 2013
Rowntree singles out Vunipola for praise
ESPN Staff
February 19, 2013
Saracens' Mako Vunipola dives over to score against Exeter, Saracens v Exeter Chiefs, Aviva Premiership, Allianz Park, London, England, February 16, 2013
Graham Rowntree has been hugely impressed with Mako Vunipola's form this season © Getty Images

England coach Graham Rowntree has described Saracens prop Mako Vunipola as "one of the real breakthrough players of the season so far".

Vunipola has been used as an impact substitute for England so far with all six of his appearances for the national side coming from the bench. But following his two-try performance against Exeter at the weekend for his club side Saracens, Vunipola could get the nod against France on Saturday.

Harlequins' Joe Marler is the incumbent loosehead but Rowntree was quick to praise Vunipola's recent form.

"He played well (against Exeter) didn't he? He has been one of the real breakthrough players of the season so far," Rowntree said. "I am delighted with his progress. He demonstrates the strength we have got in many positions.

"I remember myself as a prop coming on and trying to get up to the pace of the game, trying to make an impact on the game and he does it better than I ever did. Who we start, it's no bad thing for a person like him to sit on the bench. What I mean by that is he could start, I'm quite comfortable with him starting. It is horses for courses."

England forward coach Rowntree is currently preparing his pack ahead of Saturday's clash at Twickenham. France are yet to record a win in this season's Six Nations and Rowntree is expecting a French backlash at the weekend.

"Philippe Saint-Andre is already saying this is their Grand Slam," Rowntree said. "It will change the whole complexion of their championship if they win at the weekend and the way they will challenge us is through their forward pack.

"There is never a weak French scrum. We are preparing for [Thomas] Domingo. I think he will start. We have been watching him play for Clermont. He has been around that set-up for a few years now. He is an incredible scrummager, a compact little unit but technically very good. As an outfit, regardless of results, that area of the game is something we always respect with France."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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