- Young No. 8 reveals his reluctance to seal hat-trick against CONSUR XV
- “Mako’s always texting me to say keep your head down” – Vunipola
He may have marked his first start under Stuart Lancaster with a hat-trick, but Billy Vunipola is well aware that England’s forwards must be more accurate if they are to repel Argentina in Saturday’s first Test.
Vunipola was the beneficiary of two driving mauls that produced tries in the first half, before bundling his way over the line in the right-hand corner to complete a remarkable treble within six first-half minutes.
Photo: RFU Archive
Even so, the 20-year-old London Wasps No. 8 was at pains to accept any plaudits and explained his reluctance to seal the scoring spree just before half-time.
“It was a bit of a shock and took me by surprise,” he said. “Obviously it was good to score some tries – on the last one I tried to give it to TJ [flanker Tom Johnson, who was in support] but he didn’t want it.
“I didn’t want to be seen as greedy – if TJ was in a better position I would have given it to him. He didn’t want it, so I took it.”
After struggling to put together any cohesive patterns during a fractured opening 20 minutes, England found themselves 7-0 down at the Estadio Charrua when referee Joaquin Montes awarded the hosts a penalty try.
However, Vunipola suggested that the early deficit acted as a catalyst for a much more structured second quarter that yielded 31 unanswered points.
He added: “We started off a bit slow and they scored a try, but we probably needed that to start dominating in the forwards.
“I’d say sometimes we were a bit clumsy, forcing things a little bit too much maybe. But we had a pretty good game.
“To flag up areas we need to work on, I’d say the ruck and just how the scrimmage is refereed out here – little things like that. It’s definitely good to be able to work on them going into the two Tests [against Argentina].”
Photo: Getty Images
Although he declined to speculate on his prospects of usurping Ben Morgan for a Test match spot, Vunipola has certainly demonstrated enough to put himself in the selection shake-up for Saturday.
Indeed, his performance was the icing on an impressive family weekend, with elder brother Mako contributing to the British and Irish Lions 59-8 thrashing of the Barbarians.
And with cousin Toby Faletau also catching the eye in Hong Kong, there was plenty to be pleased with.
“Mako and I have exhanged a few text messages saying good luck,” Vunipola finished.
“I’m very proud of him and Toby – Mako’s always texting me to say keep your head down because he isn’t there to tell me in person. It’s really awesome for him and the family as a whole.”