What Mako Vunipola thinks of potentially facing teammate he is 'so close' to at Saracens
Mako Vunipola is hoping to face Saracens teammate Vincent Koch in the British and Irish Lions test series with South Africa this summer, but first the two world-class props have to join forces to ensure the club’s promotion back to the Gallagher Premiership.
Vunipola has seen Koch learn to deal with different problems posed by Championship front rows and the World Cup winning prop was forced to restore his reputation after a mauling up front by Cornish Pirates as the former European champions lost their opening fixture. Vunipola said: “To play against Vinny in a Lions test series would be very special because we are so close. Hopefully we will get that opportunity and Vinny for us has got better every game and I cannot see why he wouldn’t be involved with the Springboks. When he is playing his best rugby, scrummaging as well as he can, for me he is up there as one of the best tightheads in the world.
“This Lions tour will be different from four years ago because I now have kids. While finishing the season strongly with Saracens is the priority I do think about the Lions tour and I am really excited to crack on and enjoy the experience. “
Saracens must rely on the Championship match panel to decide if they are awarded a bonus-point win that also gives them the 12 points needed to finish above Ealing Trailfinders after their final league game was postponed due to Hartpury being affected by positive covid tests. Saracens and Ealing will meet in a two-leg play-off to decide who moves up to the Premiership next season.
Vunipola said: “Our goal is to finish top of the Championship and as competitors, you want to be top of the log. The play-offs are against Ealing Trailfinders who beat us twice in pre-season matches and although we beat them in the league the score flattered us. “
Vunipola has been praised by All Black Jerome Kaino as his toughest opponent in test rugby describing the loose prop as like a “brick”. Vunipola said: “When you get the respect of your peers it is very flattering. There have been many tough players I have faced but Jerome would be right up there and you respect the ones who just keep coming not matter how hard you hit them.
“As a player, I have a lot of belief in myself and there have been ups and downs but I have every confidence in my ability and even though we are not in the Premiership we are playing against big boys up front in the Championship. That is why when it comes to the summer I will be able to help the boys. I have spoken to Robin McBryde ( Lions forward coach) and previously I had met him socially when we were living in Wales and he was playing with one of my uncles Salesi Finau at Llanelli.”
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