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Mako on being Billy's shield

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'If I am the shield, Billy must be talking himself up as the sword'

On the same day that New Zealand brothers Beauden and Scott Barrett fronted a media conference in Tokyo, England did likewise by rolling out the Vunipolas – Mako and Billy – to meet the media ahead of Saturday’s World Cup semi-final.

Brotherly love was on the agenda, with Mako chuffed that Bill described him as his shield when he is on the pitch for England. 

“If I am the shield he must be talking himself up as the sword. He gives us a lot in terms of momentum as well as helping stop the momentum in the other team,” explained Mako. 

“That is going to be key against the All Blacks because teams find it difficult to stop them. It is going to be a big battle and one we are looking forward to.”

Saturday at Yokohama will be a special day for the Vunipolas as Billy – who celebrates his 27th birthday the day after the World Cup final – will make his 50th appearance for England after making his debut in 2013 away to Argentina in Salta. 

(Continue reading below…)

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That debut arrived seven months after Mako, 28, make the first of his 56 England appearances with a November 2012 debut versus Fiji. Both have gone on to fulfil their potential, an achievement Mako was very glad of.

“There have been some bumps along the road and it is a great achievement, although I didn’t realise it was his [Billy’s] 50th. It’s nice for him but we are just both looking forward to going out and helping the team and it’s not a small feat not many people achieve that. It is something we can celebrate after the game.”

Billy added: “Getting to 50 caps is a big mark but it isn’t something I have put a lot of thought into yet. My focus has been on trying to help the team because it is quite an individual thing.”

The younger of the Vunipolas is certain England will win on Saturday. “I don’t know how to explain… I haven’t beaten them but it almost helps you by firing you to try and change the course of history. 

“It’s a semi-final and I don’t think I have known a coach who has beaten New Zealand more times than Eddie. He always knows how to do it. It might not happen consistently but he has the formula. Trust in Eddie and hopefully we can produce the performance.”

WATCH: Former England international Neil Back sits down with RugbyPass in the first episode of the Rugby World Cup Memories series 

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'If I am the shield, Billy must be talking himself up as the sword'