Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

England ready to embrace jeers, claims Vunipola

Billy Vunipola won't be put off by the boo-boys

Billy Vunipola insists England will welcome booing at the Stade de France on Saturday as evidence of their ascendency in the opening-day title showdown.

The rivals for Championship supremacy collide in Paris knowing victory would invigorate their quest for silverware, while defeat would ratchet up the pressure.

The Stade de France crowd can be fickle and Vunipola, the Saracens number eight, hopes it is unpopular England who are the object of their anger.

"It's a compliment if you can go to France and make them boo you because then you know their team isn't doing well. You are doing well and they don't like you," he said.

"It's not about being liked, it's about winning the game and that's the biggest thing we want from Paris. When you can shut them up it's always fun.

"England are not liked wherever we go and that's a good thing. Fans can say all they want but if they can't do anything about it, it's fun."

France start the Paris showdown as odds-on favourites to inflict their first defeat on Stuart Lancaster's England, with pre-tournament form in the Heineken Cup clearly influencing the bookmakers' judgement.

A telling match earlier this month saw Saracens overpowered by Louis Picamoles-inspired Toulouse in a contest containing a host of players who will be locking horns once again on Saturday.

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree has admitted to taking heed of events at Stade Ernest Wallon and Vunipola insists the experience has taught England that brute force will be insufficient to topple France.

"Maybe we got our tactics wrong against Toulouse by running into their power source - their big forwards," Vunipola said.

"They just drained us and as a team we couldn't get any go-forward.

"This week we have looked at areas where we can attack and get field position.

"We must have a blend to our game, whether we are picking-and-going or mauling. It's not all about carrying, although we do have good carriers in our team.

"We need to keep France working, get them blowing a bit and start running at holes between them and start breaking through tackles."

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