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CJ Stander Wary Of “Power Athlete” Billy Vunipola Threat

Billy Vunipola CJ Stander Ireland England

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CJ Stander says he is expecting a physical but smart performance from England when Eddie Jones’ side line out against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. 

This eagerly-anticipated clash between these two old rivals has all the makings of a classic and many are expecting England to produce a performance considering their promising form in November and also the small matter of their humbling at the hands of Ireland in Twickenham last year.

For England, there is optimism around the return of many of their important players, none so more than Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola.

Billy Vunipola Ireland England CJ Stander

The 26-year-old has returned to fitness from his latest injury setback and looks set to start on Saturday and his likely opposite number on Saturday, Stander, is all too aware of the threats that he will pose.

“He is a power athlete,” Stander replied immediately when quizzed on Vunipola.

“He has footwork to him as well and soft hands. A lot of people think he is just going to run over people, but he is actually an all-rounder. If you look at what he has done for Saracens this year, he is playing quite well.

“It’s a good match-up…I have played against him before. Last time I think I was blindside, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s another big threat for them.”

Such is Vunipola’s quality, his performance on Saturday will likely have a big impact on whether England begin their preparations for France with a win under their belt.

Billy Vunipola CJ Stander Ireland England

The success of their setpiece will also be very important, as Stander explains.

“They have a very powerful game, a physical game as well. The forwards…you have powerful athletes in there and you have threats going out wide, Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell…it’s a team that has really stepped up in the physicality side. They have footwork and smarts as well. If you look back on the November Series, I think they were unlucky. They played some really good rugby.”

Stander continued: “The set-piece [worrys me the most]. It is a big part of the game. From that they have good threats out the back, they have good, powerful runners.” 

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter