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'Vunipola, if we didn't know the pubs were closed you'd swear he had been in one. He was out of shape'

By Liam Heagney

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Former Scotland coach Matt Williams has accused the Saracens players on the beaten England team of not being at the races for the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations, the Australian even going as far as to claim that Billy Vunipola looked at if he had been in the pub and was out of shape. 

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Scotland blew the 2021 champions title race wide open with their shock 11-6 round one win over defending champions England at Twickenham, the first time the Scots have won at the HQ of English rugby since 1983.

While ex-coach Williams, who led Scotland to just one win in his ten Six Nations games in charge, stressed he didn’t want to take anything away from the merit of the shock win by his old team, he rounded on the Saracens contingent who made up one-third of the starting England team.

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Jonny Wilkinson and Gregor Townsend guested on RugbyPass All Access before the Calcutta Cup clash
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Jonny Wilkinson and Gregor Townsend guested on RugbyPass All Access before the Calcutta Cup clash

Bar a Trailfinders Cup hit-out for Vunipola three weeks ago at Ealing, the Saracens players didn’t have game time of any kind since England defeated France in the Autumn Nations Cup final 62 days ago. 

Williams, who was appearing as a pundit for the match on Irish TV channel Virgin Media One, believed it was a significant factor in deciding the outcome against England, in particular the effort of the sub-par Vunipola. “The Saracens players weren’t at the races,” he said. “Vunipola, if we didn’t know the pubs were closed you’d swear he had been in one. He was out of shape. 

There was no way he was ready for international rugby. Owen Farrell, one of the best players in the world, was way off the mark. Even the great (Maro) Itoje gave away a lot of penalties. But I don’t want to take anything away from Scotland, they deserve all the credit and it has smashed the tournament wide open.

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“Sensational win for Scotland. They were brave. That’s the cliche, but they were smart and they did it for 80 minutes. They overcame a sin-bin. An absolute brain-snap at the end, what were they thinking of taking the drop goal? Who’d be a coach? Poor Gregor (Townsend) must need resuscitation after that. 

“If they hadn’t had won, if England had scrapped that, it would have been a travesty. Scotland were just brilliant in every aspect. They outmuscled England, they outthought England, they attacked Jonny May in the air, their full-back Stuart Hogg was absolutely exceptional. 

“And I said their tight five were questionable. Let me take that back, their tight five stood up and were more than a match, dominated England. The statistics out of this game are just mind-boggling.

“In the 69th-minute mark Scotland had made 104 carries, England had only made 38. England made 142 tackles, Scotland 60. There’s a 15-6 penalty count. England gave away 15 penalties. And that was the first time, the 67th minute, England got to the third phase when they had possession. If you had told me that before the game it’s 100/1 you’d believe it. It was just brilliant, a brilliant performance.  

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“We thought Scotland would come out for 40, 60, but they wouldn’t be able to go toe to toe with the power of England and they have proved us all wrong. Great credit to Gregor, great credit to the team. 

“That young hooker (David) Cherry coming off the bench, a few years ago he was playing second division in France. The opening action he did in his international career was he smashed Maro Itoje. That shouldn’t happen but you have got to give great credit. 

“The phantom, ghost stadiums, two away wins in the opening weekend so far and we hope the away team [Ireland] wins tomorrow. I wonder how long has it been since there were three away wins in the opening round of the Six Nations? We’re seeing something different.”

 

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'Vunipola, if we didn't know the pubs were closed you'd swear he had been in one. He was out of shape'

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