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VIDEO – Emotional Vunipola proud of powerful first Test start

03 November 2013

  • Billy Vunipola reflects on strong performance against Australia
  • "It was pretty emotional, I shed a tear" – after singing anthem with brother Mako

The day before he turned 21, Billy Vunipola shed a tear, hugged his brother Mako and then carried the ball at Australia with a ferocity that suggests he will be a fixture in England’s team for years to come.

Second-half tries from captain Chris Robshaw and fly half Owen Farrell – their firsts in Test rugby – were enough for Stuart Lancaster’s side to overhaul a 13-6 half-time deficit and lift the Cook Cup at Twickenham Stadium in the opening QBE International.

Full back Mike Brown was named Man of the Match after a typically abrasive performance in the air and on the ground but Harlequins man was ran close by Saracens No.8 Vunipola, who controlled the ball admirably at the base of the scrum and was accurate in his decision-making and application at the breakdown.

Billy Vunipola on the charge during his first Test start against Australia at Twickenham Stadium

Photo: Getty Images

But weighing in at 126kg, it was Vunipola’s ball-carrying on his first Test start which got the Twickenham crowd on its feet as England's chief attacking threat – bulldozing through Quade Cooper and three other would-be tacklers in the first half and drawing many defenders during the nine-minute spell when 14 unanswered points were plundered.

“I was pleased with my ball-carrying, I didn’t try to force it too much, I let it come to me and got a few good carries in,” he said.

“But when you feel you can go you just go. I did that much better today, rather than putting the onus on me to go out there and carry, there are great players around me like my brother, Younger [Tom Youngs], Woody [Tom Wood] and Robbo [Robshaw]. They all played well.”

The loose trio of Robshaw, Wood and Vunipola were a crucial factor in wresting the initiative from Ewan McKenzie’s Wallabies in the second half, unrelenting in their work all over the pitch.

Vunipola said it is a pleasure to play alongside the indefatigable duo and the shift in momentum after the break was due to adding greater precision to their first-half intensity.

Tom Wood carries against Australia at Twickenham Stadium

Photo: Getty Images

And, interestingly for such a young man, Vunipola highlighted the team’s robust mental performance: “Our performance was pretty good, mentally it was strong. Robbo led us well and kept everyone calm, which was what we needed.

“We played with more accuracy [in the second half]. The intent was definitely there but we just needed to control it a bit and put more pressure on them rather than ourselves.

“We worked on the breakdown a lot in the week and it was an area we said we were going to target. But I think it’s easier when you play beside two players as fit as those two boys [Robshaw and Wood].

“It gives you opportunities to pick and choose when you go in and go hard after the ball. We complement each other well but we can’t get too carried away with this result, we’ve got next week and the week after.”

Mako Vunipola on the run against Australia at Twickenham Stadium

Photo: Getty Images

Vunipola made his Test debut off the bench in Argentina this June, while his brother Mako was with the British and Irish Lions in Australia. Starting a Test match together was understandably a proud moment – too much to keep inside during the national anthem – but Vunipola is determined to look forwards instead of backwards and ensure there are many more treasured moments in the future.

“It was pretty emotional, I shed a tear,” he added with a trademark grin. “Starting with my brother certainly added to it. Having him standing next to me singing the national anthem, I tried to hold it in but I couldn’t. I’m really proud of both of us. 

“The summer was a good experience but this topped it. Being at home and finally realising the dream has come true. But I don’t want to focus on that, I want this to be the start not the end.”