Strong Saracens contingent in England squad for Ireland game led by Vunipolas
PUBLISHED: 13:35 31 January 2019
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Mako and Billy Vunipola lead a strong Saracens contingent as England prepare for the opening game of the Six Nations away to Ireland.
The brothers are part of five from the Allianz Park that will start in the pack for the game at the Aviva Stadium, a quintet that includes George Kruis, WGC-born Jamie George and former Harpenden St George’s pupil Maro Itoje.
Another alumnus, Owen Farrell, will take to the field in the backs as captain.
A third from the Sun Lane school, George Ford, is on the bench.
Saturday’s game will be the first time the siblings have played together for England this season and head coach Eddie Jones is delighted to have them back in tandem.
He said: “It is nice to have Mako and Billy back. Mako is obviously a world-class loose head. We missed him during the autumn but he has come back in good nick and really committed to be the best he can be.
“With Billy we haven’t had him for a long time. He’s also in great nick and ready to play well for us.”
Some are already calling the game in Dublin a championship decider, despite it coming in week one, and Jones knows it will be nothing but a tough test for his England squad.
He said: “I think it is quite clear to beat Ireland you have to beat them in the contest area. They are very good at the breakdown and in the air. Both those areas are a priority for us.
“Traditionally England and Ireland games are always very close, they are tough affairs, there is a lot of emotion in the games so our ability to finish the game strongly is going to be vital.
“It is well documented no one thinks we can win but I can tell you everyone inside our camp believes we can win. We are hugely looking forward to the weekend.”
A 35-strong squad, which include former Harpenden junior Jack Singleton, has spent the last week in Portugal honing their plans for the much-anticipated contest.
Jones said: “This camp has been vitally important for us to get our understanding on how we want to play the game.
“It has been also enormously important for us is to get that togetherness off the field and the senior players and staff have been working very hard in those areas.
“We have a great group of players, hardworking and a good mix who have come together really well.”