February 8, 2019 / 4:38 AM / 5 months ago

Rugby: Vunipola must keep setting the standard - scrum coach Hatley

(Reuters) - England’s Mako Vunipola delivered a “phenomenal” performance in their Six Nations win over Ireland last week and the prop’s influence will again be crucial in Sunday’s game against France, scrum coach Neal Hatley has said.

Rugby Union - Six Nations Championship - England Training - Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, Britain - February 7, 2019 England's Mako Vunipola during training Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Vunipola, back after a calf injury ruled him out of their November internationals, made 27 tackles and carried 11 times in 77 minutes on the pitch as Eddie Jones’ men stunned Ireland 32-20 in Dublin.

“To do what Mako did was phenomenal — scrummage, lineout, maul,” Hatley told British media. “I know Eddie talked about the role of the modern-day prop. Then to carry and make tackles like he did is phenomenal.

“Sometimes people become a bit blase about what he does but it was an unbelievable effort and something he’s going to have to repeat again for us.

“We’ve talked about setting that standard and nobody is harder on himself than Mako. He’ll set that standard and he’ll want to get there again.”

Vunipola’s Saracens team mate Maro Itoje will miss the match at Twickenham as well as the next fixture against Wales after the lock sustained a knee ligament injury against Ireland.

England could bring in Courtney Lawes, who replaced Itoje, or choose between Joe Launchbury and George Kruis.

“Courtney is probably scrummaging better than he ever has done. He’s put on a little bit of weight so his set-piece work has improved massively. That, allied to what he does in the loose, makes him a threat,” Hatley said.

“Conversely, Joe’s a good lineout mauler, good to drive off and his scrummaging has improved. He carries a lot and he makes a lot of tackles.

“We’ll decide closer to the game what that make-up will be but we know whoever starts and whoever finishes we’ll get good value out of that position.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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