The loosehead prop, who was England’s man of the match in the upset victory over Ireland, has been ruled out for more than two months after being forced off the field during the 44-8 victory at Twickenham in the 44th minute.
England confirmed on Tuesday that the injury is expected to require around 10 weeks to recover, and as a result he has been sent back to club Saracens to begin his rehabilitation.
“It is obviously very disappointing to lose Mako at this stage as he is an important player for us but it does provide an opportunity for the team to grow,” said England head coach Eddie Jones, who revealed on Sunday that he will call in reinforcements to cover for Vunipola’s absence.
The absence of the 28-year-old deals England a large blow ahead of next weekend’s Grand Slam eliminator against Wales, with Exeter Chiefs prop Ben Moon and Leicester’s Ellis Genge likely to battle it out for the right to start in Cardiff on 23 February.
Jones will name his squad that will prepare for that match with a three-day training camp in Kensington on Wednesday, where it is likely that Moon’s Exeter teammate Alec Hepburn will be recalled to the squad.
But this latest setback is a cruel blow for Vunipola, who also missed the autumn internationals last November after tearing his calf muscle that sidelined him for two months.