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Warren Gatland admits he thought Mako Vunipola wasn’t fit enough before tour

Warren Gatland Mako Vunipola

Warren Gatland has revealed that he told Mako Vunipola he wasn’t fit enough for international rugby when the British and Irish Lions squad first met up.

Vunipola will start for the Lions in their second test against the Springboks this Saturday, having impressed off the bench in the tourists’ 22-17 win last weekend.

Gatland was speaking at a press conference and admitted that he thought the English prop wasn’t fit enough for test rugby just over a month ago, while praising Vunipola’s improvement.

‘He has made a huge impact.’

“We have been really pleased with Mako,” Gatland said, via WalesOnline.

“I was really honest with him and just said, ‘Mate, I didn’t feel when you came into the squad that your fitness levels are as good as they should be for international rugby’.

“He agreed with me and we have changed a bit of his scrummaging technique and him coming off the bench at the moment – he has made a huge impact.

“He has scrummaged exceptionally well, carries great, is a great defender and we will see what happens over the next few days.

“I really felt for Wyn [Jones] missing out, but I wasn’t in any way worried about Mako coming in and being a replacement off the bench.”

Mako Vunipola’s return to form.

Vunipola, like many of his England teammates, struggled to find form in this year’s Six Nations campaign, although he did start four of his country’s five matches.

The Englishman has had limited opportunities with the Lions on tour, having started just one of their seven matches this summer, and was left out of the tourists’ match-day squad for the first test against the Springboks.

However, after Wyn Jones pulled out of last Saturday’s game due to a shoulder injury, Vunipola was included in the replacements, and made the most of his 23 minutes off the bench.

The Saracens prop has now been selected to start ahead of Rory Sutherland this weekend, and will hope to continue his superiority at scrum time against the much-vaunted Springboks pack.

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