Six Nations: England pair Mako Vunipola & Anthony Watson 'set for Italy return'

Billy Vunipola and Mako Vunipola
Vunipola brothers Billy (left) and Mako (right) could both be back in action for England shortly

England are set to welcome back Mako Vunipola and Anthony Watson from injury for their Six Nations match against Italy in a fortnight, says Eddie Jones.

Prop Vunipola (knee) was sidelined in December while wing Watson suffered a hamstring problem last month.

Number eight Billy Vunipola could be fit for the final game against Ireland.

Dylan Hartley, replaced after 46 minutes in Saturday's win over Wales, said boss Jones told him he "captained the side brilliantly this week".

Defending champions England, having won their opening two fixtures, host Italy at Twickenham on 26 February (15:00 GMT start) and are strong favourites to continue their bid for a second successive Grand Slam.

"Mako has a big chance. He will play for Saracens next weekend and if he gets through that game we will bring him into camp for the Italy week," said England head coach Jones.

"Watson ran at 95% on Friday so we are confident he will be able to play against Italy. It will be great to have him back and we will probably use him."

Billy Vunipola, who suffered knee ligament damage during England's 27-14 defeat of Argentina in November, could be fit in time to play in Dublin on 18 March in what could be a title decider.

"Billy might get back for Ireland. He'd be pretty useful off the bench at 150kg," Jones said.

Captain Hartley 'happy with early exit'

Hartley, who has helped lead England to a record 16-Test winning run, has been replaced in each of Jones' 15 matches in charge and made his briefest appearance yet in Saturday's win over Wales in Cardiff.

Despite coming off after 46 minutes the 30-year-old hooker said: "I don't think it was too early. I talked to Eddie and he said I captained the side brilliantly this week.

"There is a reason we have these finishers who come on and do their job for the team, as much as I do mine.

"I came off the field and the team handled itself brilliantly - there is so much experience out there and these guys have good heads on them so the team runs itself."

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