Rugby Rugby World Cup 2019: Billy Vunipola opens up on his brother like never before ahead of England vs Australia

Rugby This is one clever component.

Billy Vunipola has opened up on his relationship with older brother Mako like never before, labelling him his “shield” and revealing on the eve of the biggest game of his career that he fully buys into the belief that he performs better when the pair are both playing.

The England No 8 struck an open and reflective tone ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia, discussing how he and Mako get on within the pressure of an eight-week campaign, which the pair both hope will continue beyond this.

It has been a difficult journey for both to get here, with Billy missing the best part of 18 months through a series of knee injuries and broken arms, while Mako nearly missed the tournament completely when he tore his hamstring back in May.

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But they will start for England in today’s last-eight encounter, where they will share the bulk of the ball-carrying responsibilities with Manu Tuilagi in what will be just the third time the trio have started together for the national team.

Billy has had to go it alone so far in Japan, with his brother missing the first two games of the campaign and only coming off the bench in the third when the younger of the pair had left with an ankle injury. But with both of them fully fit and named by Eddie Jones to lead the charge against the Wallabies, there will be a bond out on the pitch inside the Oita Stadium that will bring the best out of both of them. The message is simple: two Vunipolas are better than one.

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“It definitely is a thing,” says 26-year-old Billy, two years younger than his brother. “Subconsciously, it’s not something we think about but it’s about giving myself a little more time. Having my brother there gives me that time.

“He obviously takes away tension because he is as much of a threat. We’ve got the Sincklers and the Jamie Georges but I think he goes really well in that capacity off nine and that helps to give me space and timing in the next carry.

“He takes a lot of pressure off me because he’s the older brother, so anything that comes towards the Vunipolas he usually takes the brunt of it and

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