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Robin McBryde: Wales will need to contain Billy Vunipola

Published 03/03/2016

Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde knows the threat that England number eight Billy Vunipola could pose in next week's Six Nations clash at Twickenham
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde knows the threat that England number eight Billy Vunipola could pose in next week's Six Nations clash at Twickenham

Robin McBryde believes the dynamic physical presence of England back-row destroyer Billy Vunipola will warrant close attention as Wales build towards next week's RBS 6 Nations showdown at Twickenham.

The Saracens number eight has been in blockbusting form during England's unbeaten Six Nations start, making more than 50 carries across victories over Scotland, Italy and Ireland.

And Vunipola's game-breaking ability is not on lost on Wales, whose own number eight Taulupe Faletau has also delivered a series of exceptional performances during this season's tournament.

"He (Vunipola) is a big man, and in the first three games he's been very effective for them as a ball-carrier. So we are going to have to target him," Wales assistant coach and forwards specialist McBryde said.

Asked if Wales might attempt a soccer-style man-marking job on Vunipola, McBryde added: "I think it is a bit harder in rugby.

"You will have to talk to Shaun (Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards) about that - that's his area of expertise. If you give him (Vunipola) too much room, he is going to be effective.

"Eddie (England head coach Eddie Jones) is quite a shrewd character. He probably knows teams are going to target Billy, so they will have Plan B up their sleeves.

"Billy has been as effective as he's ever been."

The match-up with Faletau - Vunipola's cousin - promises to provide box-office entertainment in nine days' time, when both countries put their Six Nations title ambitions on the line.

While Vunipola's carrying statistics make for staggering reading, so does Faletau's tackle-count of 51 completions and only two missed against Ireland, Scotland and France, in addition to offering Wales high levels of attacking and set-piece excellence.

"I can't speak highly enough of Toby (Faletau)," McBryde said. "He has matured a hell of a lot, and he is still maturing as well.

"He is part of that back-row group that are constantly asking questions of each other and looking for small little advantages that they can bring to their own game.

"His work defensively in the lineouts has really come on leaps and bounds, and he is proving to be the full package at the moment. He is pretty much one of the first names on the team-sheet at the moment."

Wales have beaten England three times at Twickenham during head coach Warren Gatland's eight-year reign, including a dramatic 28-25 World Cup pool triumph last September that left the host nation lurching towards early elimination.

Former Australia boss Jones, though, has already made his mark, with England standing two more wins away from achieving a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003.

"Eddie says it as it is," McBryde added. "He has got a wealth of knowledge.

"They (England) seem to have got a spring in their step again. In fairness to what Eddie has done there, obviously the boys are buying into it. Three (wins) out of three - you couldn't have hoped for a better start."

McBryde reported that Wales lock Luke Charteris, who missed the 19-10 victory over France last week because of a knee injury and was replaced by Bradley Davies, is back running, with prop Gethin Jenkins "progressing well" from a calf muscle strain.

Jenkins has provided bench cover for in-form Scarlets loosehead Rob Evans during the championship so far, and McBryde said: "He (Evans) is enthusiastic and is a bundle of energy.

"He is alive in a game in both attack and defence, while his set-piece work has surprised a lot of people with regard to how technically-efficient he has been.

"He was a little bit unlucky with a couple of calls against France, so it's all good with regards to Rob, and he is in a great position in the squad with Gethin and Paul (James), having two experienced individuals to learn from."

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