Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Billy Delighted to Be Making Waves after Sarries Switch; England No8 Is Determined to 'Surf' All the Way to a Thrilling Heineken Cup and Premiership Double. Chris Jones Reports

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Billy Delighted to Be Making Waves after Sarries Switch; England No8 Is Determined to 'Surf' All the Way to a Thrilling Heineken Cup and Premiership Double. Chris Jones Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

SURFING is not one of Billy Vunipola's specialities but he is happily riding the destructive wave carrying Saracens towards a potential Heineken Cup and Premiership Double.

Ball carrying is more the No8's area of expertise and his skills have been a key factor for England and Sarries this season.

He was in barnstorming form as Sarries hammered Clermont Auvergne 46-6 to secure a Heineken Cup Final clash with Toulon in Cardiff on May 24. And now they must match that intensity, particularly in defence, against Harlequins in Saturday's Premiership play-off semi-final at Allianz Park.

"The wave we are riding has been slowly building and we have ended up top of the League at the end of the regular season," said the 21-year-old, who joined brother, Mako, at Sarries from Wasps at the start of this season.

"It's not about the wave crashing with a big performance like the Clermont win, we want to keep it going and we have to win this game against Quins or else all that effort in the Premiership would have been for nothing.

"These are the games I wanted to be involved in the big games that put the pressure on you to perform and bring the best out of you. I wanted to push myself, play against the best teams and experience the big stadiums. I thrive in that environment and you are judged on the success you achieve in big finals."

Saracens lost Heineken Cup and Premiership semi-finals against Toulon and Northampton last season but Vunipola does not expect that to play on his team-mates' minds this weekend.

"I don't think what happened to the guys last season acts as a warning it is more of a reminder that you cannot take anything for granted, particularly against a dangerous team like Harlequins."

He will be tasked with shackling the attacking threats posed by England team-mates Mike Brown and Danny Care if Sarries are to reach the Premiership Final at Twickenham on May 31. He must also handle the forward power of England and Quins captain Chris Robshaw and his international teammate Joe Marler, the pair having formed the backbone of a Quins team that won five successive League games to make the play-offs. …

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