“I LOVE CHOCOLATE, man. Love it.”
Viliami Vunipola was determined to keep the positive elements of the Six Nations final day at the forefront of the conversation despite Saturday’s 13 – 9 loss to Ireland.
The first player to wander into the packed mixed zone, the England number eight wasn’t for backing behind a cordon or up against a sponsor’s board. No, ‘Billy’ stood his ground comfortably, letting the swollen Grand Slam-seeking press pack orbit around him as he happily fielded questions.
“We won the title,” Vunipola reminds the autopsy committee.
“It’s very English of us to be disappointed. I remember when Ireland won two years ago, we had to beat France by a certain score, they still celebrated. We have to celebrate!”
I think we were always in the game. It was just, there was always an occasion where we’d let them off the hook. We’d have them under pressure and we just slipped up a few times. We’ll learn from it next time, if there ever is a next time, we’ll be better.”
“It’s amazing how emotionally charged Ireland were today. We’ve got to learn now, if we’re ever in the situation again, how to negate that, how to take the crowd out of the game. Again, it comes down to what we could have done better.”
The return of Vunipola to the back row was supposed to be one powerhouse too many for Ireland to handle as they reeled off a loss to Wales to face the unstoppable juggernaut of Eddie Jones’ Chariot.
However, Ireland’s back row continually frustrated England’s attack, never more so than Peter O’Mahony’s line-out steal five minutes from time. No excuses from Vunipola, he even admitted they had been warned by a certain BBC pundit.
“Watching them play last week, Paul O’Connell said he’s a massive line-out threat both in attack and defence. He showed today he has great athleticism, great player.
“Not only that, but Stander and O’Brien played well. We could have done better, but it happens. We’ll enjoy our victory, sorry our trophy, and move on.”
With the chance missed to break their record and a Lions tour ahead this summer, New Zealand was bound to come up as a topic for any post-match, post-tournament interview. But on this occasion, it was Vunipola who raised the spectre of the All Blacks, though he mentioned them respectfully by their world ranking rather than by name.
“I said to (Eddie Jones): ‘not even the best team In the world could do 19, so we’ve got to be happy about that.
“We’re still chasing that tag, but if they couldn’t do it… we just have to keep trying.”
Asked if he fancied a crack at the ABs, for either England or the Lions, Vunipola comically shot up an octave:
They’re a formidable side, a job for another day — and for Ian Ritchie to arrange.
“It’d be a great game to watch, but that’s way above my pay-cheque, mate. I’m just a finisher, a starter, whatever Eddie wants to use me as.
“We’ll have a good night tonight. Maybe a few chocolate bars or maybe a few desserts and we’ll be back on it Monday.”
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