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England prop Mako Vunipola out to showcase scrummaging strength against Italy

Published 11/02/2016

Mako Vunipola made an impressive cameo appearance off the bench against Scotland
Mako Vunipola made an impressive cameo appearance off the bench against Scotland

Mako Vunipola is looking forward to showing his scrummaging strength against Italy on Sunday after demonstrating his deft handling in the RBS 6 Nations opener with Scotland.

Vunipola came on as a replacement prop in Edinburgh and had a significant role in the move which led to Jack Nowell's try in England's 15-9 success.

His sublime pass allowed him to share some of the limelight with brother Billy, whose barnstorming performance from number eight earned him the man of the match award.

Now Vunipola is relishing being in the thick of the action against the Azzurri, who are renowned for their set-piece ability.

"If people were saying 'that was a good scrummaging performance you put in' I would be a little happier," Vunipola said.

"But it was great to get involved in the try and now I am getting my head down and working hard.

"The boys have run the video a few times and I haven't taken any stick.

"I didn't know that (head coach) Eddie Jones thought it was Billy who gave the pass and that is probably a compliment. I will have to have a word with him (Jones).

"I have always liked running with the ball and when I was growing up I knew I was going to be a forward but didn't know I would be a prop and practised lots of different skills.

"The Italians love the scrum and their attitude is that the next scrum is the last one they will ever hit.

"We have taken up that attitude that it is about trying to dominate the opposition."

Italy suffered a narrow opening defeat in France and Vunipola knows that if England are to extend their immaculate record against the Azzurri then they must keep talisman Sergio Parisse quiet.

"Anything we can do to keep Parisse in the scrum will help our defence," he added.

"Anything we can do to slow him down will be a bonus at the weekend because he is such a key man for Italy.

"We know that any opportunity to disrupt his ball will help us."

Parisse attempted a drop goal in the closing stages of Italy's 23-21 loss in Paris which would have sealed victory.

Vunipola admits that skill is another in his repertoire, but it will remain on the training field.

"I still do a bit of drop-kicking in training but don't think I will be doing that in a game," he added.

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