Vunipola finds his voice at senior level
Coming into a senior rugby environment at a young age could be seen as a daunting prospect for some, but Manu Vunipola has adapted seamlessly.
The England Under-20 fly-half, who has committed his long-term future to Saracens, made his first-team debut for the Men in Black aged 18 and now has 21 club caps to his name.
“The experiences have changed me and made me a better player and a better person.”
From playing under the lights of Racing 92 to kicking a last-minute penalty to win at home against London Irish, Vunipola has experienced a lot in such a short space of time and has been trusted to don the 10 jersey on numerous occasions in 2019/20.
While he didn’t look out of place to the spectator, he admits he has had to find his voice on the field and it’s an area of his game he is continuing to work on.
“It was quite surreal at first,” the former Harrow pupil said. “I couldn’t quite believe the position I was in, the players I was playing with at such a young age and just having that exposure this early in my career is something I could only have dreamt of.
“I’m quite a quiet person and at the start of the season I wasn’t really myself, I always thought I was too young to put on the jersey for the Saracens team but as it went on I kind of learnt that I needed to step up and be the player that needs to lead and that meant I had to be vocal.
“That’s something I worked on and I’m still working on, but the experiences have changed me and made me a better player and a better person.”
He continued: “Looking back on those experiences, they are matches I’ve always wanted to be involved in.
“Those are the times you dream of as a kid and when you’re finally there you don’t really how lucky you are. It’s been a good experience and hopefully I’ll get more opportunities like that; it’s only going to make me better.”
Five years of hard work have gone into the stage Vunipola is currently at today after joining the Academy as a 15-year-old.
He will now graduate into the senior squad and credits Academy coaches Kev Barrett and Adam Powell for aiding his development.
“Kev Barrett and Powelly have helped me massively over these past few years,” Vunipola said.
“Kev has made sure I wasn’t lacking in fitness and strength; us Tongans need that extra push to get us going! Kev has helped me massively with that and Powelly on the rugby side of things has been instrumental in my career and my performances.
“He’s helped me in all areas of my game and I’m going to continue to use that to my advantage and I hope we can have that same relationship when we do head back into things.”