Billy Vunipola is ready to hunt down the big beasts in Ireland’s pack as England brace for an Irish power game at Twickenham on Saturday.

Vunipola insists England will “push through the pain barrier” as they look to ignite their Autumn Nations Cup after effective but uninspiring victories over Italy and Georgia.

Ireland provide the first meaningful opposition of the campaign and defence coach John Mitchell believes they have opted for a physical pack to gain a foothold up front, a year after being branded “softies” by South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus.

Billy Vunipola is one of England’s most effective carriers (
Billy Vunipola is one of England’s most effective carriers (Marco Lacobucci/PA)

Reunited with flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in Eddie Jones’ first-choice back row, Vunipola insists the aim is to dominate in the second Group A match.

“Eddie has mentioned that we want to be the greatest team and you can’t let these opportunities slip by,” the Saracens number eight said.

“We want Ireland to know that we’re not taking this as just another game. It’s a massive, massive challenge and a test for us, especially up front. They’ve gone big up front.

“We’ve made no bones about the fact we want to play the English way and that’s through our set-piece and getting front foot ball, putting us in the right areas of the field. Obviously they’re trying to negate that.

“We want to dominate, whether it’s Georgia, Ireland or Italy. Our intentions are to dominate.

“It’s important for us as forwards especially to kickstart that battle and win it because that goes a long way to winning the game.

“It would be easy for us to go in there and drift and think ‘we have beaten them three times in our last three games, it will just happen’. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.

“It’s important for us to attack this game, whether that’s in defence, the kicking duel or in our attack.

“We have to go and hunt for it and once we are in the hunt, we have got to keep going because these guys will never back down.

“Once we have put pressure on them it’s about maintaining that pressure. We want to go out there and test Ireland and test ourselves and see whether we want to push through that pain barrier.”

England’s preferred loose trio of Vunipola, Curry and Underhill featured together for the first time since the World Cup final when they faced Italy three weeks ago and clinched the Six Nations title, but the combination was broken up against Georgia.

“Curry and Underhill are like those little Duracell bunnies that never run out of energy,” Vunipola said.

Sam Underhill, left, and Tom Curry, centre, will be crucial around the ruck (
Sam Underhill, left, and Tom Curry, centre, will be crucial around the ruck (Adam DAvy/PA)

“They’re always the ones smashing people or running over people. It just inspires people around them.

“But we know Ireland are going to come out firing. I’m not going to sit here and say we are going to match them, we want to go a step up.

“They’ve picked a big pack. They want to see if they can negate the advantages from our scrum and mauls and breakdown but it’s a nice challenge for us and one that excites a lot of the boys up front.

“Walking around and the way the boys are carrying themselves, you can see that there’s a quiet confidence about us. There’s also a little bit of that nervous energy, which is never a bad thing.”


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