England must stay humble says Saracens’ Vunipola
PUBLISHED: 14:55 26 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:55 26 August 2019
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Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola has urged England to stay humble as expectations over their World Cup prospects heightened with Saturday’s 57-15 rout of Ireland at Twickenham.
Eight tries were engineered against a team also considered title contenders for this autumn's global showpiece in a statement performance that was tainted only by the recurrence of Mako Vunipola's hamstring injury.
A greatest winning margin and highest scoreline were posted against Ireland in the third of four warm-up Tests and, while the summer serves as the phoney war ahead of the main event in Japan, England will have sent a shiver through their rivals.
Billy Vunipola is wary of the acclaim that will accompany the outcome of their Twickenham send-off, however.
"The biggest thing is for us to stay humble. Now everyone is going to pump up our tyres because we did well this week, but it was only last week that everyone was hammering us," he said.
"The biggest danger is the other side of the coin. We need to keep our feet firmly on the ground and keep working.
"At the moment we're in a good place but I don't think a good place can win you a World Cup and we want to keep improving.
"We didn't let up. There were times that we could have taken our foot off the accelerator, but this showed we can take teams to a place where they're not comfortable.
"We're pretty happy with it but satisfied is probably the wrong term, we always want to improve. There's parts of our game that probably let us down."
Manu Tuilagi was unstoppable and Joe Cokanasiga helped himself to two tries, but it was the pack who really carried the fight to opponents who missed the opportunity to claim first place in the world rankings.
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And Ireland's surrender was secured not only by the power of England's forwards, but also as a result of their willingness to prolong moves through their crisp handling.
"We're always trying to add things to our game and having props that can play with the ball in hand," Vunipola added.
"It was only last year that (Ireland prop) Tadhg Furlong was leading in terms of that facet of the game, so we're learning off other people as much as each other.
"It was awesome to see Kyle Sinckler put someone through a hole. I'm not sure about the celebrations but it was great to watch!
"The key there is to make defences think. When you start doing things really well, teams will start analysing it and start waiting for it, almost anticipating it.
"We are not trying to give too much away but to see Tom Curry's try was pretty awesome.
"Three forwards setting up a try between us was great to see and it is something we have been working on."
While Billy Vunipola is thriving on the back of three starts in a row, placing distance behind him and a torrid spell of injuries, elder brother Mako faces an anxious wait for news on his hamstring problem.
The world-class Lions prop underwent surgery at the end of last season and was making his comeback as a second-half replacement against Ireland before it was aborted shortly before the end.
"I talked to Mako but he hasn't given me too much. All I've got is 'yeah, I feel all right, I'm okay'," Vunipola said.
"If I wasn't his brother he'd probably tell me more but because I'm his little brother, he's trying to be the tough guy. We're just here to support him and hopefully fingers crossed he's okay."
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