Moments that made them: Mako Vunipola

Vunipola has three Guinness Six Nations titles, one Rugby World Cup final, four Gallagher Premiership Rugby titles, three European Rugby Champions Cups and a British & Irish Lions series win to his name after an incredible career [more]

Moments that made them: Mako Vunipola

Mako Vunipola has revolutionised the role of a prop and established himself as one of the great front row forwards of the professional era since bursting onto the international stage in 2012. 

After building an excellent reputation with Bristol Bears, Vunipola was a key cog in Saracens, England and British & Irish Lions teams in a period of unprecedented success.

With three Guinness Six Nations titles, one Rugby World Cup final, four Gallagher Premiership Rugby titles, three European Rugby Champions Cups and a British & Irish Lions series win to his name, there is an abundance of great moments to highlight from the prop’s career.

So, ahead of Vunipola’s latest Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final this weekend, let’s take a look back at the moments that made Lion #787.

Making an impact on his England debut

Having established himself as one of the finest young forwards in the domestic game, Vunipola made an immediate impact for England.

He made his Test debut off the bench as a replacement for Joe Marler against Fiji and hit the Twickenham turf running.

The forward immediately caught the eye with his work rate and unreal skillset, qualities that England would utilise to great effect in years to come.

The young Lion

Being selected to tour with The British & Irish Lions is a highlight for any player who has had the honour, so to feature at 22 is a remarkable achievement.

And Vunipola was no passenger as the Lions recorded a 2-1 series win over Australia under the guidance of Warren Gatland in 2013.

He replaced Alex Corbisiero during the second half of the first Test, helping the Lions to a 23-21 win, and started the defeat in the second Test.

However, his defining moment on tour was coming off the bench in the decider as the Lions defeated Australia to win their first series in 16 years.

Helping England bounce back

It has not always been plane sailing for Vunipola.

In 2015, he featured in every game as England failed to make it out of their Rugby World Cup group despite playing on home turf.


But the prop was excellent under new head coach Eddie Jones, helping his side bounce back from World Cup heartbreak by winning the Grand Slam in the 2016 Six Nations.

Player of the Year

England were superb under Jones between 2015 and 2019, and 2018 was a year that Vunipola will never forget.

It was arguably the most challenging 12 months for Jones up until that point, but Vunipola was sensational on his way to being named the England Men’s Player of the Year at the RPA Awards.

The prop started all five of England’s Guinness Six Nations games and two of the three Tests on tour in South Africa.

He also inspired Saracens to the Gallagher Premiership Rugby title.

Reaching the World Cup Final

But the best was yet to come for Vunipola.

In 2019, he started every knockout game as England reached their first Rugby World Cup final since 2007.

Vunipola was as professional as they come at the set-piece and tireless in defence as England beat New Zealand 19-7 to reach the final with one of their greatest-ever victories.

And despite the final being one game too far for Jones and his side, Vunipola was one of their standout players.

Completing the trilogy 

After breaking into the side in 2013 and establishing himself as one of the world’s best on the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, Vunipola achieved something few other players have in 2021.

He completed a hat-trick with selection for the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa and even completed a run of nine consecutive Test appearances.

Vunipola tasted defeat on tour for the first time as the Lions were beaten 2-1 by the world champions, but an outstanding career with England and three unforgettable tours with the British & Irish Lions means he will go down as a legend of the game.

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