Vunipola: British and Irish Lions looking for more

British and Irish Lions' Mako Vunipola is tackled by Crusaders' David Kaetau Havili during the tour

British and Irish Lions' Mako Vunipola is tackled by Crusaders' David Kaetau Havili during the tour match at the AMI Stadium, Christchurch (pic David Davies/PA). - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Saracens prop says win over Crusaders is ‘just a start’

Saracens’ Mako Vunipola has declared the British and Irish Lions’ bruising 12-3 win over the Crusaders as “only a start”.

The England prop produced one of many stellar performances as Warren Gatland’s men ignited their New Zealand tour with a win of real substance in Christchurch.

Owen Farrell booted all the points as the Lions inflicted the Crusaders’ first defeat this season, restricting a side boasting an average 37 points per match down to just a solitary penalty.

Gatland insisted the Lions have much to work on despite a win to put the tour back on track after 22-16 defeat to the Blues, and prop Vunipola agreed.

“I think it is only a start,” said Vunipola of the Lions’ fine victory at AMI Stadium.

“We knew the challenge ahead of us. They have got some very good All Blacks players in that team and it was a good hit-out, but that is all it is really.

Most Read

“The Crusaders are a good team but the All Blacks are a step up.

“As a team we are preparing for Tuesday’s game against the Highlanders but we are very pleased about how it went and hopefully we can look at the review and see what else we could have done better.”

Lions boss Gatland was relieved to set the tour back on track, but also to counter a host of critics from outside the tourists’ camp that included All Blacks boss Steve Hansen and England coach Eddie Jones.

Vunipola insisted the Lions squad hardly noticed the criticism, however, claiming they must block out the bluster to focus on preparing for the three-Test series against back-to-back world champions New Zealand.

“We didn’t talk about the critics that much,” added Vunipola.

“It is key for us as a team to ignore the outside noise, the stuff going on outside, and focus in on what we need to do as a team.

“We know that things were being said about us, but we were frustrated with the result on Wednesday (the 22-16 Blues defeat) as well.

“It was more of a case that the 23 that went out there went out to try and do their best for the 41.”

Asked if avoiding those external frustrations can prove tricky, Vunipola continued: “Not really; one of those things as professionals now, there is social media, it is so easy for everyone to say things or have an opinion about you.

“We as players have to have thick skins and we are all experienced players as well so we are used to dealing with that.”

Vunipola was pictured looking distinctly disinterested as the Crusaders performed a pre-match haka against the Lions. But the England front-rower insisted that was just his resting face, as he watched on with respect, but also total focus on his role for the match.

“I was just doing my normal face,” said Vunipola. “As players there’s not much you can do (during a haka), you just have to show respect.

“Facing the haka as a player is one of those spectacular things. They’re laying the challenge down and I just think about my first job.

“You look at the players and you see them but you just stand there, and give them respect. To have that many players doing the same thing at the same time is pretty cool. I try to be as relaxed as I can be and take it all in.”