Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Vunipola not worried by workload

Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick is suffering from a shoulder problem

England star Billy Vunipola has backed Saracens to cope with huge physical demands in the final push for a potential domestic and European trophy double.

Vunipola and company booked their place in the May 31 Aviva Premiership final against Northampton after toppling play-off opponents Harlequins 31-17 at Allianz Park.

The immediate focus, though, is next Saturday's Heineken Cup final appointment with holders Toulon in Cardiff, where Saracens will bid to become the fifth English European champions after Bath, Northampton, Leicester and Wasps.

It is uncharted territory for Saracens, but number eight Vunipola said: "We have to go after it.

"If we take our foot off the gas we are destined to fail, so that is how we have to approach it. It is two more weeks. They are tough games, but we have to attack it or we will get hurt.

"I think we have the gas in the tank to handle it. We are fit players, we have great coaches and hopefully we can come up with plans to win both games.

"We do not like to talk about ourselves too much, but we have the firepower to do it (win the double). We have the coaches to come up with plans that can turn these two teams over.

"They (Toulon) are a very good team. They have superstars littered throughout their line-up, but they still play as a team.

"They are similar to us, they suffocate teams. They did it to Munster (Heineken Cup semi-final) and they did it to Racing Metro (Top 14 play-off).

"I keep going back to it, I have confidence our coaches have a plan to deal with them, and hopefully we can get over the line."

Vunipola will now be among a number of players set to miss England's first Test against New Zealand in Auckland on June 7, as that game is just seven days after the Premiership final.

It means England boss Stuart Lancaster's line-up will be considerably underpowered for the Eden Park series opener in what is a far from ideal scenario for coaches or players.

"I am away with England for a few months and I want to play for my country, but I also have friends I play with week in and week out who I want to do something special with," Vunipola added.

"But I am gutted to be missing out on the first Test. Having said that, I might not even be involved in the tour (if not selected) but I am trying my best to be there.

"For the players it is out of their hands, as this is something that was organised a long time ago. It is out of the hands of Stuart and the coaches, but as a player you have to take it a game at a time."

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall, meanwhile, will now set about the task of preparing his squad to face two cup finals that could be watched by a combined audience of more than 150,000 people at the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham.

"We have just got to be sensible, and what that preparation involves will be guided by the very expert performance team that we have at the club, who will guide us individually and collectively during the week," McCall said.

"But we also mustn't wrap people completely in cotton wool and think we are going to be well-prepared for a team like Toulon or Northampton.

"We have to get the balance right. The players have got to be unbelievably disciplined away from the club, which they will be, and everyone is excited about the next fortnight.

"We understand how to look after our players. They will come in on Monday and they will work very hard.

"The challenge is to be very well-prepared for Toulon, and we have just got to be careful and sensible about how we do that."

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