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'There's no such thing as untouchables': Mako Vunipola on the allegation Eddie Jones has undroppable England favourites

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Mako Vunipola has claimed there are no untouchables in Eddie Jones’ England team despite criticism that the coach isn’t ruthless enough and keeps selecting a plethora of underperforming stars. There has been a clamour this year for the Australian to shake-up his misfiring England selection.

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However, he has shown a huge amount of loyalty to established players and is expected to back them again on Thursday when he announces his XV to face France on Saturday in the Guinness Six Nations. 

England head into that fixture having had the grip on their 2020 title loosened by February defeats to Scotland and Wales and how Jones now selects his team will be closely monitored by fans who believe there is a culture whereby poor performances by his favourite players aren’t sufficiently punished.

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The 30-year-old Vunipola doesn’t go along with that accusation, though, claiming that no-one – not even under-fire England skipper Owen Farrell – takes anything for granted despite the evidence to the contrary this past month.  

“No, I don’t know who these untouchables are, to be honest. I hope I’m one of them – I’m joking. No, there is no such thing as untouchables,” he said. “Obviously when you are the captain, as Owen is, there is a perception that he is untouchable but there is no such thing. 

“The reason that he is the captain is that he is a leader first and foremost and then the way you are picked is from the way you are on the field here in training and where you are around the park and the environment. This stuff about untouchables is not for me to comment on. We believe in what we are doing and Eddie will do what is best for the team.

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“Nothing is taken for granted here. Every game is a new game and whoever Eddie feels is the best for the game he will do that. As you have seen in the past he is not afraid to make big calls. We understand that as players and the biggest thing for us is we know the belief hasn’t wavered in what we are doing. We believe in what we are doing as a squad and that what we are doing at the minute is the best for us.”

England’s penalty count will come in for much scrutiny at Twickenham as they have conceded 41 in their three matches in the tournament so far, a situation that resulted in RFU referees Wayne Barnes and Matthew Carley spending time in camp this week to try and iron out their problems.

Some England players rang Jones last week in the aftermath of the loss to Wales to address their indiscipline in Cardiff, but Vunipola wasn’t one of them although he now admits he should have been. “I actually didn’t ring him but I should have done. I should have rung him and told him that both the penalties I gave away were very silly… I should have rung him but I didn’t.

“With the extra help of Wayne Barnes coming in and Matt Carley, giving us an extra understanding of where we can learn from the game, it has been good for the group to learn from that as players but it also comes back down to individual responsibility of understanding the context of the game, where we could improve.

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“Although there were a lot of penalties there wasn’t a clear trend of where the penalties were coming from. They were all pretty different penalties, which we have spoken about, and the best thing for us now is how we react. We have got a great opportunity against a good French side.”

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'There's no such thing as untouchables': Mako Vunipola on the allegation Eddie Jones has undroppable England favourites

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