Former Thornbury Broncos rugby player Mako Vunipola on playing with brother Billy for England
MAKO VUNIPOLA has warned brother Billy that more hard work lies ahead if they are to realise their ‘dream’ of playing rugby together for England.
The duo, who grew up in Thornbury, joined up with Stuart Lancaster’s squad in Leeds this week as preparation for the Six Nations and have been tipped to follow in the footsteps of the Underwood and Armitage brothers by playing in the same England side.
Prop Mako was officially promoted to the senior elite player squad after winning four England caps in the autumn internationals, while 20-year-old No 8 Billy was named in the Saxons squad for the first time and is currently providing injury cover for Tom Croft, although he sat out training this week with an ankle injury.
Having played with each other in England under-18s and under-20s, they , believes they earned their international call-ups through their commitment to the game and that has to continue if they are going to play in the same side.
“That is the dream to play (together) for England,” the 22-year-old told the Gazette.
“We both play the game to play together and it will be a great day if it does happen but there’s a lot of hard work before that and it’s a long way away. “We’re both really proud but there are a lot of good players in the squad and nothing is certain yet.
“I told him it’s really easy to fit in, they’re a good group of boys and very welcoming.”
Having forced his way into the senior England squad, Mako is now hoping to win a place in the side from the start with all his appearances so far coming from the bench.
He said it was a “massive honour” to make his England debut against Fiji and relished matches against Southern Hemisphere heavyweights South Africa, Australia and World Cup holders New Zealand, who were famously beaten 38-21 at Twickenham.
“It was really exciting for me and my family and I enjoyed every minute of the autumn,” said Vunipola.
“I felt I learnt a lot about what the international set-up was like.
“When I look back I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. It was a bit unbelievable “To get a win against the world champions was a great achievement. “As a team we’re looking to build on that, we’re confident we can play good rugby at the Six Nations and keep getting better as a team.”
While Mako and Billy might have to wait for their chance to play together for England, they will be part of the same Saracens side next season.
Billy will leave Wasps to join their Premiership rivals in the summer and Mako, who also committed his future to the Saracens by signing a new contract last week, admitted they have always wanted to play at the same club since playing in the same age group at Thornbury Broncos as youngsters.
“To play with my brother has always been the priority,” he said.
“We played together when we were young and our parents are happy to have us at the same club.
“I like what they (Saracens) have done for me. They’ve given me a chance to play top class rugby, they believe in me and gave me the foundation to grow as a player. “I’ve got nothing but praise for the coaches and staff so I just want to repay them.”
Mako admitted his dad Fe’ao, who played in two World Cups, has been the greatest influence on him and Billy, and says Castle School PE teacher Lloyd Spacey also played a big part in helping them get where they are.
He said: “I’m still in touch with Lloyd Spacey. He’s a good friend and a keen rugby supporter and he pushed us. “Rugby is in our blood. Our dad pushed us and he’s a massive part of our career. He always supports us.”
The Six Nations get underway on Saturday, February 2 when England take on Scotland at Twickenham.