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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021

Unrepentant Vunipola says he did not intend to hurt anyone

BT Sport awarded the number 8 man of the match as Saracens defeated Munster.

Vunipola celebrates his try.
Vunipola celebrates his try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SARACENS NUMBER EIGHT Billy Vunipola says he did not intend ‘to hurt anyone’ when he publically backed Israel Folau’s anti-gay social media sentiments.

The England international scored the match-sealing try as Saracens defeated Munster 32-16 in this afternoon’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final and was then named official man of the match by BT Sport’s Austin Healey – part of a commentary crew which greeted his score as a redemptive act after a week in which he was issued warnings by his club and the RFU.

Speaking to the broadcaster’s touchline reporter Sara Elgin, who asked first about his personal feelings pre-match amid the scrutiny he invited, an unrepentant Vunipola said: 

“Behind closed doors, I felt a lot of love, a lot of kindness shown to me. I’m grateful to be part of this team.

“Hopefully we keep this going, keep up what we’re doing an enjoying every minute of it.”

‘Grateful’ and ‘thankful’ were words Vunipola used time and again during the short interview without directly invoking his religious views. His interviewer again pointed out that the crowd had felt moved to boo him for his stance, but he declined to direct a response their way.

“No, from my point of view: I believe what I believe in. There was no intention to hurt anyone, it was never my intention. I’m just grateful to be able to play, to be fit and hopefully we’ll see those guys in the final.”

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Sean Farrell

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