Vunipola admits he only ever had eyes for England

Vunipola England v Scotland
If given the choice to play for one of two Guinness Six Nations powerhouses, most people would take a day or two to think their decision through, but not Mako Vunipola.

If given the choice to play for one of two Guinness Six Nations powerhouses, most people would take a day or two to think their decision through, but not Mako Vunipola.

The Saracens and England loosehead prop has revealed that he only had eyes for the famous white jersey, despite receiving call-ups to both Wales and England Saxons on the same day in 2012.

Vunipola qualified to play for both countries at the time, raised in Wales but moulded in England’s Under-20 and Under-18 sides.

Ten-and-a-half years on from his international debut, the 76-cap star is in England’s training squad for their Guinness Six Nations match with Wales later this month.

“I got told in the morning by Mark McCall that I had been called up to the Saxons team, and then later on that day, my cousin called me and said the coaches were asking if I’d be keen to play for Wales,” said Vunipola.

“I was like ‘I’m sorry mate, I have already had the call-up’, and the rest is history, I guess.

“No [I didn’t have to think about it] and no, if the calls were the other way around, I wouldn’t be playing for Wales.”

Vunipola was on the losing side on his last trip to Principality Stadium as part of the England team that fell to a 40-24 defeat during the 2021 Guinness Six Nations.

He was also part of Stuart Lancaster’s squad in the 30-3 defeat at Principality Stadium in 2013.

And the front-row forward admits that the memory of those losses still plays on his mind.

He said: “The one that sticks in mind is when we lost to them by 30 points, that one hurt, but also the one in Covid when we conceded 40 points again.

“We know that they are a good side, especially when things are not going their way, they are even better.

“Some of the memories of Cardiff are pretty bleak, but also there have been some fond memories, it is always a great atmosphere there, and it is one of those rugby grounds that you want to play in.

“We expect the best out of them, the weeks before, they mean nothing.

“The main thing for us now is to expect that they are going to come and bring their best and all we can do is prepare as best we can and do the same.

“The atmosphere at Principality must have an impact on the players, when the crowd get behind Wales, it lifts them.

“I definitely feel like the game can easily get away from you and individuals are different in how they react.

“What we have got to learn from that is to stick together and get even tighter.”

England and Wales will be in a similar position in Cardiff, two games into new eras under Steve Borthwick and Warren Gatland, respectively.

England fell to defeat against Scotland in Round 1, before bouncing back with a win against Itay at Twickenham.

Similarly, Wales lost their first game of Gatland’s second stint in charge, but they made it two losses from two last weekend with a defeat at BT Murrayfield.

And Vunipola hopes the team can stick to the game plan ahead of Round 3 of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

He added: “With England, you are obviously chopping and changing a little bit but most of the group has been together for a long time now.

“So, we have kind of built up that cohesion and hopefully we can keep building from the first two weeks.

“The key for us is, as the pressure comes on, they gain momentum, and as the crowd gets involved, that we don’t get distracted by outside noise.

“We need to stick together, go back to our plan and stick to that.”