Vunipola brothers sign new contracts with Saracens
18:41 23 February 2016
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Saracens and England forwards Mako and Billy Vunipola have been rewarded for their progress with club and country after signing new contracts for the second time in the space of a year.
The brothers put pen to paper to commit their futures to Sarries in April 2015 and have agreed fresh deals this week, which are due to keep them at Allianz Park until 2019.
Both players are in Eddie Jones’ England squad ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations showdown against Ireland at Twickenham – but they are also relishing the chance to become increasingly influential figures for Saracens as the Hendon outfit bid to retain their Premiership title.
Billy Vunipola, 23, said: “We are both delighted to be able to extend our deals. Now is time to build on the work we have already done with Saracens and continue to improve as people and players.
“We have a lot to look forward to over the rest of the season and beyond. We’re very excited to stay at Saracens.”
Older brother Mako Vunipola, 25, added: “Signing a new contract comes with new responsibility and I am really looking forward to contributing to Saracens in the upcoming years.
“We’re extremely happy to extend our stay at the club, as we have made so many fantastic memories together already.
“One of the most important things is that we’re playing alongside our best mates week in, week out, and the whole culture of the club means it’s a special place to play rugby. I’m delighted to be staying.”
Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall said: “This is fantastic news for everyone associated with the club. To have two players of the calibre of Mako and Billy commit their futures to Saracens is extremely exciting, as we continue to build a strong squad for the upcoming seasons.
“We have a great blend of youth and experience at the club and what has been great is for us to witness the progression of both of them from promising youngsters to two of the world’s best in their respective positions.
“Their contribution off the field is equally as important and we’re delighted to keep them at the club.”
Meanwhile, McCall has defended Schalk Brits after the Saracens man was sent off in Saturday’s 25-12 home win over Gloucester.
With Brad Barritt already in the sin-bin after half an hour, Brits punched Nick Wood to temporarily leave his side with 13 men, and then 14 for more than half of the match.
But a converted try from Ben Ransom and six penalties from Charlie Hodgson ensured the league leaders came out on top and recovered from their shock 64-23 home defeat to Wasps the previous weekend.
“Schalk has obviously struck him on the head, but if you look at the incident, then Schalk’s knee is trapped as Nick Wood clears him out,” said McCall. “Schalk is almost frightened and is trying to get him off him as quickly as he can. He did the ACL on that knee last November so there was a bit of fear there. He swung to get the player off.
“That was probably our best win of the season after what happened last weekend. It takes the wind out of your sails when you lose a player like that.
“We’d already done 10 minutes without Brad Barritt and were then playing into the wind in the second half. It was a phenomenal effort from everybody, most particularly from our forwards.”
Flanker Will Fraser added: “I guess that kind of performance was what we are about at this club. When things go wrong we just bind together to get through it.”