England pack becoming a force
Mako and Billy Vunipola believe England’s pack is building into a world-class force and insist they can reinforce that standing in the Six Nations.
Mako and Billy Vunipola believe England’s pack is building into a world-class force and insist they can reinforce that standing by backing up an impressive November campaign over the forthcoming Six Nations.
The Saracens siblings first discussed last month’s internationals, starting with the win over Australia at Twickenham.
Both men started together for the first time in a Test match that day, each contributing typical industry and power to the 20-13 victory. Mako admitted it was a special occasion.
“It was hugely emotional,” said the 22-year-old loosehead. “It’s been a long journey and all of it was building towards that one dream of starting together at Twickenham in front of our family.”
While the older Vunipola stopped short of shedding a tear, Billy conceded that task proved beyond him.
“It was probably because I caught my mum in the crowd standing next to my brother singing the anthem [that I cried],” he added. “Obviously our whole journey came to the fore that day.
“It was a new experience for me in front of a packed Twickenham and something that felt very humbling.”
Mako picked up a knee complaint during the Wallabies clash, meaning he missed the defeat of Argentina and the narrow loss to New Zealand – a setback he described as “gutting”.
Having watched Billy excel from No.8 in an agonising 30-22 reverse to Steve Hansen’s all-conquering All Blacks though – making 18 carries in the 57 minutes he was on the pitch and holding his own opposite IRB Player of the Year Kieran Read – Mako believes his brother has a strong platform to push on from.
Billy himself explained he was content with how the internationals went, both on an individual front and for England’s forwards as a collective.
“I was satisfied with the whole experience and hopefully now I can carry that on for Sarries.
“The whole three weeks was massively fun in terms of the whole environment. It was a bit gutting for Mako to miss out through injury because I found him being there quite comforting even though he doesn’t talk much.
“We’ve got world-class players in the likes of Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood among others and the whole pack unified together is a very strong force.
“Hopefully we can get all the injured players back fit and the team will be better for it.”
Reluctant to look ahead to the Six Nations – except to joke about a potential head-to-head with cousin Toby Faletau when Wales visit Twickenham – Billy finished by reinforcing the need to produce strong club performances together ahead of the new year.
“I don’t really want to prompt anything. France will probably be the biggest Test but for me personally you can’t look further than [the European Cup match] Zebre on Saturday. I’ve got to carry on playing well and take it from there.”