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Vunipola’s return can inspire Saracens to victory over Ulster

| 04.04.2014

Billy Vunipola is set to give Saracens’ Heineken Cup chances a boost by returning from injury for the club’s crunch quarter-final clash against Ulster.

The England international has been out of action for six weeks after injuring his ankle in his country’s Six Nations win over Ireland and his presence in the Saracens squad for the trip to Ravenhill would represent a significant improvement to their chances of victory.

But Sarries Director of Rugby Mark McCall, who is a former coach of Ulster, played down Vunipola’s return to fitness.

“We’ll make a decision later in the week,” said McCall.

“If Billy plays it’ll be because he’s fit to play. We won’t take a risk with any player.”

The Aviva Premiership leaders are 11/8 with Ladbrokes to repeat last year’s victory over Ulster in the quarter-final but this year home advantage has swapped sides.

The English club ran out 27-16 winners at Twickenham this time last year but they travel to the province without Joel Tomkins, Will Fraser and Alastair Hargreaves.

Ulster have injury doubts of their own with international stars Ruan Pienaar, Stephen Ferris and Tommy Bowe all facing a race to be fit but the Ulstermen are confident they will all take their place in the starting line-up.

The Northern Irishmen are 4/7 favourites to book their place in the semi-final and will be backed by a pumped up home crowd for their first Heineken Cup home quarter-final.

But McCall will know what to expect from a place he once called home and his Saracens side will be desperate to go all the way this year after falling to eventual winners Toulon in the semi finals of last year’s competition.

The Allianz Park outfit, who are seven points clear at the top of the Premiership, are 9/1 to win their first Heineken Cup and are England’s best shot at glory.

And with Vunipola’s physical threat back in their pack they have every chance to finish the season with silverware – starting with victory at Ravenhill.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Oliver Yew