Bring it on – Billy Vunipola relishing South Africa’s physical challenge
England number eight Billy Vunipola has responded to South Africa’s promise of all-out aggression in Saturday’s World Cup final by declaring “bring it on”.
Springbok lock Lood De Jager stated after Wales were edged 19-16 by a dominant forward display that “the only way we know is fighting fire with fire”, setting the scene for a titanic battle up-front against Eddie Jones’ side.
England’s pack has been equally forceful and Vunipola is relishing the opportunity to trade blows at International Stadium Yokohama.
“South Africa are very big people but then again we have a few big blokes on our team,” Vunipola said.
“They have already come out and said they want to fight fire with fire and I guess we return it by saying ‘bring it on’. It’s a final and that’s something you have to front up to.
“Like Eddie has mentioned, they have many different threats and one is their forward pack.”
England have said throughout the tournament that they want to defend with “brutality” and so far they have been good to their word.
The most ferocious hits of the World Cup were delivered by Sam Underhill, who smashed All Blacks Kieran Read and Jordie Barrett backwards with momentum shifting tackles.
“When coaches throw words like brutality at you, you kind of have to back it up and we have been challenged again to bring the same intensity against South Africa,” he said.
“The value of a big tackle is something that you probably can’t measure, but the best way to explain it is that it’s quite contagious.
“It shows everyone it can be done, so everyone else tries to follow in the slipstream of players like Underhill, Tom Curry and Maro Itoje.
“A lot of people talk about it and it’s easy to sit here and say we want to be brutal, but you have to back those words up and those guys are probably the best at leading that area.”
Vunipola will resume his personal duel with South Africa back row Duane Vermeulen who made a major impact on his return to Test rugby during last summer’s 2-1 series victory over England.
“I’ve played against them a few times and he’s got up the last few times so personally I’m going to try my best to win that little battle so to speak and hopefully that will help the team,” Vunipola said.
“I played against him last summer and he was monumental in terms of getting them those two victories.”