As Mako Vunipola returns from injury, Eddie Jones looks forward to welcoming back one of the finest looseheads around. Sure, it is indeed a luxury to have a prop to the standard of Joe Marler as a reserve, but Vunipola is a different beast.
The Saracen returned to club action last weekend in his side’s loss to Gloucester, and is widely tipped to be included in Jones’ side to take on Italy on Sunday.
With England on the verge of another Grand Slam, they are expected to account for the Azzurri and Scotland in Twickenham before a date with destiny in Dublin on St Patrick’s weekend.
However, in Tadhg Furlong, Ireland boast one of the most fearsome tighthead scrummagers around. It is a challenge that Vunipola is wary of.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, Vunipola revealed he has nothing but respect for the dramatic rise of Furlong, who this time last year was the third-choice tighthead at Leinster.
“He is the stand-out tighthead prop in Europe, for the right reasons as well. Not just his play in the loose, but his set-piece has been very strong. For me, it’s just a case of head-down and focus on the next game ahead of me. For me, it’s about playing against the best players in the world, and I’d love the opportunity to challenge myself against Furlong and see how I cope.
“I think on his current form he’s got a case [to be considered among the best in the world]. He’s up there with the best tightheads.”
This is high praise indeed coming from Vunipola, and it shows how far Furlong has come in the past year.
You can listen to the full interview with Vunipola in the latest episode of the Oval Office, Pundit Arena’s weekly rugby podcast.
Mako Vunipola was speaking on behalf of Mitsubishi Motors UK, Official Performance Partner of England Rugby. The England Rugby players were showcasing the Intelligent Motion at the heart of England Rugby, on and off the field. To find out more follow @MitsubishiUK