England Ready to Embrace Underdog Role in Fiji Showdown - Vunipola Speaks Out


England Ready to Embrace Underdog Role in Fiji Showdown – Vunipola Speaks Out

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As England prepares to face Fiji in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals, No. 8 Billy Vunipola acknowledges that they’ll be wearing the badge of “public enemy number one.” In this high-stakes match, most of the rugby world is expected to rally behind Fiji, hoping to see England falter. Vunipola, with his extensive experience in three Rugby World Cups for England, is no stranger to the role of the underdog.

England has had an impressive run, going four for four in the pool stages in France. However, they face a formidable challenge in Fiji, who bested them at Twickenham back in August. The Stade Velodrome on Sunday will undoubtedly be packed with French supporters passionately backing Fiji, yet Vunipola and his team are accustomed to taking on the role of the antagonists.

“I would not say Fiji is their second favorite [team], I would say England is their first least favorite team,” Vunipola remarked. “In terms of being public enemy No. 1, we are happy to take that mantle.”

Despite various teams being touted as top contenders, Vunipola emphasizes that England remains focused on their game plan and is determined to excel against Fiji, with the World Cup semifinals in their sights.

Vunipola’s role has evolved during this tournament, featuring as an impact substitute after being a regular starter in previous seasons. He acknowledges the desire for more playing time but values the team’s progress and the fact that they’ve reached the quarterfinals.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but what makes it better is that I know the team is going well, and that’s the most important thing – that the team is progressing.”

Having experienced knockout rugby in both club and international settings, Vunipola is acutely aware of the high stakes. He was part of the England team that reached the World Cup final in 2019, and he’s striving for that same sense of unity and achievement in this year’s competition.

As they face Fiji, England understands that anything less than a stellar performance could spell the end of their World Cup journey. Vunipola stresses the gravity of the situation, stating, “I think plain and simple if you don’t win this week, you go home… There’s massive emphasis on the importance of this weekend.”




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