Rugby: Sharing the odd beer with older brother has worked wonders for Billy Vunipola

Gazette Series: Billy Vunipola in action for Saracens at Allianz Park Billy Vunipola in action for Saracens at Allianz Park

BILLY Vunipola is surrounded by potential role models at Saracens but the 21-year-old insists older brother Mako has done as good a job as any this year, writes Chris Bailey.

Following two seasons at London Wasps – and facing prop Mako on the field – the No 8 completed the switch to Allianz Park last summer.

The former Castle School pupil and ex-Thornbury Broncos player has gone from strength to strength since then, racking up eight England caps and helping Sarries to an Aviva Premiership final and Heineken Cup final.

And he believes living with his brother for the year – and sharing the occasional beer – has worked wonders.

“He has been a massive influence, whether he thinks it or not he has been,” said Vunipola, who won the Premiership Land Rover Discovery of the Season award in a ceremony at Hilton Park Lane last week.

“It has been fun and the experience that he had from last year of him accelerating to England and then to the Lions tour, he has laid a lot of that on me and I like to think I have taken a lot of it in.

“He has learnt to work hard since he has been at Saracens and he has told me to succeed you have to do that – I have tried to work hard and I think I have.

“He’s not one to talk when he’s sober – I shouldn’t say this! A few of our more touching moments have been when he has drank a pint and maybe we are watching a game and he changes into kind of like a role model then – but he snaps out of it quite quickly when he has had two pints.”

Saracens will face Northampton in the Premiership final at the end of the month after beating Harlequins on Saturday, but they have another final to prepare for first – against reigning European champions Toulon this Saturday.

Vunipola admits appearing in a Heineken Cup final will go well above and beyond his expectations this season.

“It is an awesome prospect. It is quite surreal,” he added.

Vunipola's club commitments means he will be unable to play for England in their first Test of a three-match series in New Zealand next month.

Be part of the world’s biggest club rugby final. Buy your tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 31 May at Twickenham from www.tickethour.co.uk/premierrugby

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