Billy Vunipola believes England have the mental strength to carry the weight of expectations as they set their sights on a second successive Six Nations grand slam with a win against Ireland on Saturday.
England thrashed Scotland 61-21 last weekend to secure back-to-back titles and victory over Ireland at Dublin would see them win all five games in the championship for the second year in a row and set a tier-one record of 19 consecutive victories.
“I would probably say the Ireland game is more mental than physical because we have never been in this position before, whereby we can push even further on,” number eight Vunipola told British media. “It is the day after St Patrick’s Day, it is going to be very, very emotional, so we are going to have to turn up with the right mindset to try to negate everything that they are going to bring.
“The grand slam was our goal at the start of the tournament and we’re firmly pushing towards it.”
England have seen a major turnaround in the last 18 months under coach Eddie Jones, having suffered an early exit from the World Cup they hosted in 2015. Vunipola believes they are closer than ever to achieving their target of overhauling New Zealand, whose record of 18 straight wins they matched on Saturday, at the top of the World Rugby rankings.
“We’ve come a long way. I think Eddie and his coaching staff have pushed us massively to a goal at which everyone would have laughed at the end of the World Cup, but now it’s realistic,” he added. “If you win 19 games on the trot, you are pushing it. We know we’re not number one yet but we want to do things within our power to show we are serious about this goal.”
Scotland’s Brown cited for Daly tackle
Scotland hooker Fraser Brown could be ruled out of his side’s Six Nations finale against Italy after being cited for a dangerous tackle on England wing Elliot Daly. The Glasgow front row spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin for his challenge on Daly early in what turned out to be Scotland’s crushing 61-21 loss in the Calcutta Cup Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
There were just two minutes on the clock when French referee Mathieu Raynal showed Brown a yellow card after consulting the television match official, with many England fans in a packed Twickenham crowd and even several neutral observers feeling the hooker had been fortunate to avoid a red card.
However, Brown was cited Monday by French citing commissioner Patrice Frantschi and his case will be heard by a disciplinary panel today. “Fraser Brown, the Scotland hooker, has been cited by the independent citing commissioner at Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations match between England and Scotland at Twickenham,” read a Six Nations statement. “The cited offence, dangerous tackling, took place in the second minute of the match in which the cited player was yellow carded.
“The disciplinary hearing, before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee of three, is scheduled for London on Tuesday, March 14.”
Daly left the field after the challenge that appeared to see him land on the back of his shoulders and sent his head crashing to the turf. Although he returned, Daly was only on the field for a few more minutes before taking no further part in the game.
Victory saw England retain the Six Nations title and equal world champions New Zealand’s record of 18 successive Test wins by a ‘tier one’ or leading rugby union nation.
Scotland complete their Six Nations at home to Italy on Saturday in what will be coach Vern Cotter’s final match in charge of the Dark Blues.
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