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Mako Vunipola has held talks about joining Billy at Montpellier

By Neil Fissler
Mako Vunipola in action for Saracens versus Harlequins last Saturday (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Mako Vunipola has held talks about joining his younger brother Billy in Montpellier when his contract with Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens runs out at the end of the season.

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The 33-year-old prop, who missed the Rugby World Cup earlier this season because of a back injury, retired from international rugby in January after winning 79 England caps and playing nine times for the British and Irish Lions.

Saracens boss Mark McCall admitted last week that the New Zealand-born loosehead would likely join his brother in leaving North London this summer, representing the end of an era as the Vunipola brothers would join former England captain Owen Farrell in leaving.

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“I don’t want to talk without them having completely finalised their plans. It wouldn’t be fair given what they have done for the club, but they are coming towards the end of their time with us,” said McCall.

Educated at the prestigious Millfield School, Vunipola has made over 200 appearances for Saracens. He joined their senior academy in 2011 after making his professional debut with Bristol.

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The loosehead has spoken to Montpelier about moving across the channel but hasn’t reached any agreement as he weighs up moving his young family to the Mediterranean coast.

Vunipola has attracted interest from Super Rugby Pacific franchises and clubs in Japan in the past but is seemingly likely to head to France for what will likely be the last couple of years of his career.

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Billy Vunipola last week agreed to a two-year deal with Montpellier that was nearly hijacked by a late offer from the southern hemisphere.

An Australian Super Rugby franchise made a late bid to snatch the 31-year-old No8, who was born in Sydney, from under the noses of Montpellier, but his deal to switch to the Top 14 was already agreed.

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J
Jon 2 hours ago
British & Irish Lions free agent open to Super Rugby switch

There are a couple of teams who could use a stop gap experienced head. Blues - I’m not sure the Blues have signed a replacement for Caleb Tangitau (if he hasn’t been let go to make room for Barrett) yet, or whether Reiko is going on sabbatical and/or will remain in the squad. With exciting young French player Xavi Taele looking destined for higher honors in black, talented breakthrough rookie Cory Evan’s, and a couple of utilities, in AJ Lam and Bryce Heem(even Clarke?), all trying to learn the midfield trade, Williams could be a great aid. The Blues signed key English center Joe Marchant before he was raised to that level, and were possibly in the hunt to bring back the dependable Tele’a from the Highlanders. Possible the main squeeze which would put to bed any signing here would be the battle at 10 with Beauden’s return, and the forcing of Plummer back into the midfield. Hurricanes - Jordie Barrett is off to Leinster for a sabbatical next year but the more likely signing would be Billy’s brother back in the team. The Hurricanes are light on the outside with the loss of Salesi Rayasi to the Top 14 and if no quality is found to back up Kini Naholo, the midfield of Sullivan or Proctors could find themselves on the wing and space for a leader to show the Hurricanes three All Black midfield hopefuls (Higgins, Proctor, Umaga-Jensen) how its done. Highlanders - Rotation is high as usual at the Highlanders and versatility remains a strength with a lot of the squad. With compatriot Rhys Patchell signing a move to the JRLO, the passing of outside back Connor Garden-Bachop, and confirmed departure of Argentine wing Martin Bogado, the versatility of many of the young backups in the squad could see a veteran 12 like Williams being a strong partner for the robust Tele’a. With hope that the other Umaga-Jensen brother can force him out of the starting lineup, and shifting the sides general Sam Gilbert back into 10, the off-contract midfielder might seen as the perfect option for a squad still looking to fill one back spot.

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