Rowntree praise for Vunipola

PA Sport
Mako Vunipola, centre, has been called up to the England squad
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Mako Vunipola, centre, has been called up to the England squad

Rookie Saracens prop Mako Vunipola has been fast-tracked into the England squad for the QBE autumn internationals after ditching the fast food.

Vunipola, the 20-stone loosehead of Tongan descent, has only made four Aviva Premiership starts for Saracens and one in the Heineken Cup. But with Alex Corbisiero still recovering from a knee injury, England forwards coach Graham Rowntree felt Vunipola's form was simply too good to ignore.

"I have no doubt he will make his name in this autumn series. I have got every confidence in him," Rowntree said. "I am looking for a fault in his game and I can't find one at the moment. He has got himself fit. His form has been exceptional."

He added: "I like his commitment to every aspect of the game. He is a dynamic ball-carrier and he loves a scrum and you know that turns me on!

"He respects all the hard yards, the tackling, the clearing out, the scrummaging. He has got his priorities right."

That has not always been the case. By his own admission, when Vunipola joined Saracens from Bristol in the summer of 2011 he was "not in great shape" and he found the transition to professionalism a culture shock.

Vunipola spent most of last season sidelined with foot and hamstring injuries but that time out allowed Saracens' fitness coaches to get hold of him.

"Mako brings something different to the party," said England coach Andy Farrell, who coached Vunipola at Saracens. "He turned professional 18 months ago when he came to Saracens and that took its toll on his body straight away.

"It is not easy, especially as a front-row forward, to cope with the demands of the Premiership but he has got his body in such a condition now that he is playing exceptionally well.

"His form this year has been down to a change of attitude. He has grown up a lot over the last six months. He has got stuck into his living outside of rugby, his fitness, his training is second to none."

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