Vunipola addresses Saracens' great fall
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England star-prop Mako Vunipola has given his reaction to last Saturday’s shock debut defeat for Saracens in the Championship.
The 2019 Premiership and Champions Cup champions were ambushed 17-25 at Cornish Pirates in their maiden second-tier outing following their automatic relegation from the top-flight due to repeated salary cap breaches.
None of the England Six Nations players were available for last weekend’s club match but Saracens still didn’t travel lightly to Cornwall as they fielded a team containing seven internationals sharing 165 Test caps between them – including wing Sean Maitland, who featured in Scotland’s win last month at Twickenham and prop Vincent Koch, a veteran of the 2019 Springboks World Cup-winning side.
Saracens are still expected to win promotion back to the Premiership as their England internationals – the Vunipola brothers, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly – will be available later in the campaign but the speculation prompted by last weekend’s opening loss is whether contracts for the leading players contain clauses that would be triggered by that promotion not being realised.
It was last July when Vunipola signed a contract extension.
*Article continues below…
“As a Sarries player it was a shock with the result but you just feel more for the players,” said loosehead Vunipola.
“You are gutted for them and it is tough but when you are in this [with England] it is very hard to split your time and focus.
“Being away with England you try and focus on that. In terms of having a clause, I wouldn’t know.
“I still feel like I want to go back and fight for Saracens. Like I said, I’d need to look into the contract stuff to be 100 percent on that. Right now in this present moment, it’s very difficult to focus on two things at once. We have got a lot of work to do here at England and that takes up a lot of time but I do speak to some of the boys, see how they are and how things are going,”
*Article continues below…
Much of the debate at the start of the Six Nations was about how England’s Saracens contingent has no matches over the winter unlike those from the Premiership. In between the Nations Cup final on December 6 and the Six Nations opener on February 6, Billy Vunipola was the only player to have any action, appearing in a Trailfinders Cup loss to Ealing.
Mako Vunipola, meanwhile, was still managing the Achilles injury that meant he was an eleventh-hour cry-off for the Nations final with the French. The accusation post-Scotland was that the Saracens players looked rusty but prop Vunipola – who made his return in the round two game versus Italy – now feels they are much better conditioned and lack of games isn’t an issue.
“You always feel like you need a few games to get back into it but I never felt that I needed that at the start.
“Personally, if called upon, I can do my role for the team and if we were undercooked then who is to say that we were going to get picked.
“The only person that decides whether we are undercooked or not ready for it is Eddie [Jones] and that is the person we listen to.
“As players, we are experienced enough to know our bodies enough, what is needed to be right to play. If we were undercooked, the only person that needs to make that call is Eddie. He is the boss and he makes that call but for us, it’s being ready to do our job for the team.”