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Vunipola won't run from boo boys

Billy Vunipola insists England will welcome jeering 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.

"If you just keep running into them it's going to be a long day and that's not what we want - it will end up being like Toulouse again.

"They are big boys and we are big boys and it will just come down to who is fitter and we don't want to leave it to that."

Vunipola's own ball carrying was one of the key sources of England's momentum against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand last autumn, but the 21-year-old knows he must add variety to his game.

"Having played Toulouse and them having seen how I played, they will probably target me a bit more which is why I need to mix it up a little bit, otherwise it will be a wrestling match," he said.

"I have to box clever. Rather than running into two or three people, try to run at one player and adding the blend - using my footwork to get at weak shoulders rather than just running at people."


From Belfast Telegraph