Six Nations: Mako Vunipola insists England are ready to face Wales
Prop Mako Vunipola talks to Sky Sports about his role with England and the reason why revenge isn't a word that interests the squad...
By Rob Lancaster
Last Updated: 07/03/14 11:40am
Having seen off Scotland at a soggy Murrayfield and squeezed past Ireland at a highly-charged Twickenham, Stuart Lancaster's side have the chance to complete a sweep of the home nations on Sunday afternoon.
Standing in their way is a Wales side that have previous for dashing England's hopes; last year they not only ended their Grand Slam dreams in the final round of fixtures, they also inflicted such a heavy defeat that they took the title themselves on points difference.
Vunipola was on duty for England that day, coming off the bench in the second half but proving unable to prevent the Welsh recording their biggest ever victory over their neighbours. Revenge, however, is not a word that has done the rounds at Pennyhill Park this week.
"It was a tense game," he told Sky Sports about the Ireland win. "Obviously it was great as a player to be involved in a high-class Test match and to come out on top of the game meant everything.
"It has set us up against Wales now, and a chance to win the Triple Crown.
"But there is no talk about revenge for last year. This is a new year and a new competition. It's up to us to go out and play the way we want to play and impose ourselves on them as much as we can.
"You need no extra motivation against Wales - it's always a big game. On Sunday we will make sure we leave it all out on the field."
As was the case in Cardiff last year, the British and Irish Lions prop seems set to start the crunch clash as one of England's replacements, a situation he has become accustomed to during his fledgling international career.
He has occupied the role of substitute throughout this Six Nations so far and while he does have a desire to force his way into the starting XV, Vunipola knows that there will still be a chance to play a crucial role in proceedings.
"It's been good," he replied when asked about his championship so far. "Obviously I've not played as much as I would have liked to.
"But that's part of the sport these days - whether you're starting or on the bench, you've got a big part to play. I just try to concentrate on the game and when I do get the chance to come on I try to do my job well.
"Coaches always say that subs have got to be ready to go. It's tough on the bench because you've got to stay focused on the game, but then you don't want to wear yourself out mentally before coming on.
"Everyone wants to start every game, and I'm no different.
"But it's up to the coaches to choose who does. All I can do is keep working hard, get my head down and make an impact when I come off the bench."
For the first time this year Mako will be the only Vunipola involved for England; younger brother Billy had become a regular at No 8 but an ankle injury against Ireland has cut his Six Nations campaign short.
It was tough for the 23-year-old to watch on as his brother was lying in pain on the Twickenham turf. Billy was stretchered off the field in the first half and although able to return to the touchline after the break to see his team clinch a thrilling 13-10 triumph, the back rower will now have to make do with a watching brief for the remaining fixtures against Wales and Italy.
"It wasn't nice. It's never good to see your younger brother get injured," the senior of England's pair of Vunipolas admitted.
"But it is part of the game and now we've got to get on with things. We play this weekend and it's gutting that he's not out there, but he will be watching the game and cheering us on.
"I was just hoping at the time that he wasn't out for the rest of the season. For him to have his season cut short would be devastating.
"Now he's still got a chance to come back and be involved with Saracens before the end of the season, then gets a chance to go on tour with England (in the summer)."
While Mako was born in Wellington and Billy in Brisbane, the Vunipola name first appeared for another nation. Dad Fe'ao captained Tonga and six uncles, as well as a grandfather, also represented the South Sea islanders.
However the latest internationals in the family have ended up playing for England after relocating from Wales, where their father played club rugby while their cousin, Toby Faletau, currently occupies the No 8 jersey.
Had things worked out differently Mako could have been wearing a red shirt this weekend. Instead he will be doing his utmost to make sure they don't dash England's dreams of glory for a second successive season, just as soon as Lancaster unleashes him from the bench.
Get behind-the-scenes news from Mako Vunipola and his England team-mates with Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 in partnership with England Rugby, at www.O2InsideLine.com