Six Nations: Vunipola determined to end Ireland's Grand Slam hopes

Last Updated: 10/02/14 10:07pm

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Billy Vunipola: Forwards battle crucial against Ireland

Billy Vunipola: Forwards battle crucial against Ireland

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Billy Vunipola admits his respect for Brian O'Driscoll and Paul O'Connell will have to take a back seat when England take on Ireland on Saturday week.

Ireland have made an impressive start to the Six Nations, following up their comfortable opening win over Scotland with a 26-3 trouncing of defending champions Wales at the weekend.

Former British and Irish Lions captains O'Driscoll and O'Connell have accumulated 15 wins from 22 combined appearances against England, and the Twickenham showdown will be O'Driscoll's last in the fixture.

But England No 8 Vunipola will have no room for sentiment as he looks to help his side ruin Ireland's Grand Slam ambitions.

"It's a massive honour to play against them having seen them in previous Ireland-England games and the Lions tours where they've been captains," said the 21-year-old, who has stood out in his maiden Six Nations campaign.

"But there's only so much respect you can give them, because once you're on the pitch you're trying to beat them.

"I'm young and I just go out there and try to do my job, but Ireland are obviously a great team, they're unbeaten at the moment.

"Hopefully we can be the ones to beat them."

Pack battle

Ireland's rolling maul was pivotal in their thrashing of Wales in Dublin, and Vunipola believes the battle of the packs could decide the outcome on February 22.

"If we can stop him (Paul O'Connell) and the rest of their forwards doing that, I think we've got a good chance of winning."
Billy Vunipola

"The maul is a big part of their game," the Saracens giant added. "They try to mix it up between their forwards and backs, but they do look to the pack for go-forward with the likes of Paul O'Connell as the engine.

"If we can stop him and the rest of their forwards doing that, I think we've got a good chance of winning."

Vunipola is also aware that this year's Six Nations could be decided by points difference, and he regrets not putting more points on the board in the 20-0 win over Scotland on Saturday.

"It's awesome to put 20 points on Scotland, and nil them as well, but we left a few points out there," Vunipola said.

"Just before half time and a few times in the second half there were moments when we should have been more clinical as a team. We're growing and still got a lot to work on."

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