McCall hails star man Vunipola

Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall heaped praise on Billy Vunipola after his man-of-the-match display in the 22-6 victory over London Irish at Allianz Park.

Vunipola’s England career hit a slump during the autumn internationals when the 22-year-old was dropped by Stuart Lancaster midway through the November schedule, having started in the defeats to New Zealand and South Africa.

The Saracens number eight was left out of the match squads for the victories over Samoa and Australia, with his replacement Ben Morgan subsequently named England’s player of the series.

Vunipola, however, has bounced back from recent Test disappointments with a string of powerful displays for his club side.

“He was great today,” said McCall, after Saturday’s home win.

“What’s impressive is you get a huge setback like he got. From being the starting number eight in the Six Nations to not even going into the (England) camp for the last couple of weeks (of the autumn internationals). It’s a hell of a blow for a young fella.

“You can only judge him by how he’s reacted and how he’s responded. That’s five games in a row when he’s been there or thereabouts in terms of getting close to man of the match.

“He was really good out there today. It’s good for us and it’s good for him that he’s back in top form.”

London Irish boss Brian Smith shared McCall’s view after watching Vunipola punch holes in his Exiles defence throughout the contest in north London.

“Billy Vunipola is absolutely world class and he’s a handful,” Smith said.

“I thought we made a fair effort to contain him today but he’s very, very dynamic. He’s a monster. He got in behind us a couple of times and caused us a lot of trouble.”

After David Strettle danced his way over in the right corner for his second try of the afternoon, it looked like Saracens would go on to claim the two tries they needed for a bonus point.

But Smith’s men then held firm as McCall’s men failed to cross the London Irish whitewash again in the final quarter.

“It was difficult in the first half,” McCall said. “It was wet and we were playing into a fairly strong wind and I thought we did a pretty good job in the first half.

“With 20 minutes to go, we got ourselves into a pretty strong position where we should try to kick on and probably get a few more tries and we didn’t manage that.

“We lacked a bit of composure in their 22. We were down there often enough but we weren’t good enough to get another few tries and that’s been an issue for us.”

Published: Saturday 3rd January 2015 by The News Editor

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