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In what was a special day for Billy Vunipola, it ended with a special moment. The England No 8, born of Tongan heritage, felt the full wrath of what it means to play against the Pacific Islanders, yet joined them after the final whistle for their regular post-match prayer.
“It is something that just happens,” Vunipola said. “It is not something that you force. We just kind of went into a prayer. I was happy to share that moment with some of the boys from Tonga and happy to play against them.
“I still have to play the same. The only difference would be the emotional state that I came into the game with. I felt like I played well. It was good to get the win.”
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Vunipola didn’t get quite such a warm welcome during Sunday’s Rugby World Cup encounter though. England may have won comfortably, but what the 35-3 scoreline doesn’t reveal is the bruises that will be counted up on Monday morning, Vunipola included.
The 26-year-old was on the receiving end of a huge tackle from Tongan flanker Zane Kepeli early in the first half that stopped the England forward in his tracks, bringing a sharp intake of breath from the 35,923 in attendance inside the Sapporo Dome.
“It was alright actually, it took me by surprise a bit,” Vunipola recalled. “I think the guy next to me was in a big gap but they put their marker down and they came out and got me. They are a tough team who put it all out there. I thought we showed a lot of control as well.
“It was probably my faul
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