Mako looking to mark 200th appearance with another Premiership title
Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership Final is one more moment to savour in an illustrious career for Mako Vunipola.
The Saracens prop will be vying for his fifth Gallagher Premiership title since joining the club, battling against league table-toppers Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stadium.
And Vunipola, who will lead the team out on his 200th appearance intends to relish his return to Rugby HQ.
He said: “Having been in a few before, getting a bit older now, nearing the end of my career, you wonder whether you get another chance.
“It’s different, I’m excited and looking forward to a great occasion and it’s a great opportunity for us.
“It’s definitely exciting, you can never take these big games for granted.
“Getting a bit older now I’m realising how hard it is and how hard it is to win it. And the overriding feeling is excitement just to get out there now and enjoy the game.
“The club’s been through a lot but this weekend is different. That’s the past now, we’ve got to move on from the emotions of it. For us as teams and players, we try not to think too much.”
He said: “It’s going to be an interesting battle on the weekend.
“We’re front-row for a reason because we all know the pain that we have to go through, we understand it and there’s a respect.
“It makes me laugh when somebody tells me they have a sore back. I would love for them to feel the same thing that we have.
“The days of front-rowers just being one-dimensional set-piece players have gone.
“We’re playing against two of the best on the weekend. [Ellis] Genge, not just the way he works but the impact he has but [Dan] Cole as well goes out the way to help.
“Now a prop is expected to do everything, being in the set-piece but then to get it out of the park, being a good defender for your team but also when you get the opportunity to make an impact and attack.”
Vunipola has experienced many highs and lows with Saracens during his time at the club, but praised director of rugby Mark McCall for his ability to find a way to constantly improve and adapt.
He said: “[McCall] does so many things that we don’t see as a group of players and we question a few things but then when it comes to the end of the year you think, ‘oh okay’ and realise that his ability to see the bigger picture, for me anyway, is his biggest strength.
“He can see that there is something that we need to fix now in September or October otherwise it will bite us when we get to March, April.
“I think he’s second to none, the direction he’s given to us and as a group of senior players, the openness that he shares with us has been amazing.
“I think we kind of take for granted as senior players the ability to talk to him, not on equal stead but for him to listen.”