Billy Vunipola delivered influential performances against Italy and Georgia

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Billy Vunipola says he is looking forward to playing alongside Tom Curry and Sam Underhill at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, dubbing them the “Duracell Bunnies” ahead of England’s Autumn Nations Cup clash with Ireland.

Vunipola missed the early rounds of this year’s Six Nations after breaking his arm, but has come back from lockdown in good shape, with former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward describing the England No 8’s performance in last weekend’s 40-0 win over Georgia as “best I’ve seen from the Sarries man for a long time”.

Vunipola joked he was not sure his fitness was quite at the levels of his back row colleagues Curry and Underhill. “They’re like those little Duracell Bunnies, never run out of energy,” he said. “They’re always the ones smashing people or running over people. It just inspires people around them. I’m not sure how I quite fit into that. But they inspire those around them through their actions.”

The 28-year-old added, though, that he was happy with his form and fitness, agreeing with England’s defence coach John Mitchell who told media on Friday that Vunipola was focusing on becoming “more effective in his carry and his tackle”. 

Asked about this Vunipola said: “‘Yeah, definitely. I’m using people around me and hopefully it will give me an opportunity, but as long as I’m helping the team in other ways that some people might not see then I’m happy. 

“That’s part of my job; to help the team in any way that I can. Sometimes that might be with big carries but sometimes it’s just about doing the hard yards.

“I’m still putting myself in positions to get the ball in my hands. But sometimes the best option is for me to be a support runner or a decoy runner. It’s about whether the nines or 10s want to use me. If not, I have to do the next best thing, whether that’s making a tackle or kick-chase or clear a ruck. But I’m still trying to sniff out opportunities and it comes back to doing my job for the team.”

Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy, meanwhile, laughed off Eddie Jones’ comments earlier this week about the legality of Andrew Porter’s scrummaging, and the England head coach’s comment about a “United Nations” of Ireland.

“I think Eddie Jones is just playing games,” Murphy said. “He obviously thinks Porter is a very good player, which he is. No one has ever come to us and made any comments about Ports’ scrum technique.”

On the subject of the residency rule, Murphy added: "To tell you the truth, we think of all our players as being Irish. They’ve been in the country, they’re members of their local communities and we just get on with it from there.

“He [Jones] seems to like to throw a few little bombshells over the wall. We don’t focus on any of that. We know what we need to control, and what we can control. We’ll just move on with that.”