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No. 8 Vunipola joins Farrell in being banned for England’s World Cup opener

England’s Billy Vunipola has joined captain Owen Farrell in being banned for the start of this year’s Rugby World Cup after receiving a three-week suspension for his red card in a warm-up match against Ireland, officials announced Wednesday.

Vunipola was initially sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Andrew Porter during Saturday’s 29-10 defeat in Dublin, but the offence was upgraded to a red by the bunker review system.

An independent disciplinary hearing reduced the entry-level ban of six weeks to three because of mitigating factors and Vunipola, the only No. 8 in England’s World Cup squad, will have another week removed if he attends World Rugby’s ‘tackle school’.

The 30-year-old Saracens back-rower is now ruled out of England’s final warm-up fixture against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday and their key tournament opener against Argentina in Marseille on September 9.

Wednesday’s announcement by the Six Nations, which oversees disciplinary matters for some tournament warm-up games, comes the morning after Farrell was given a four-match ban for his dangerous tackle on Wales flanker Taine Basham on August 12.

Vunipola will be available for the Pool D match against Japan in Nice on September 17, but fly-half Farrell will not be able to be selected by England coach Steve Borthwick until his side’s final group games in France against Chile and Samoa.

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