‘That was a true test of it’: Mako Vunipola admits controversy over brother Billy demonstrated team togetherness as Saracens prepare to face Leinster in Champions Cup final
- Billy Vunipola was criticised for controversial social media post on Israel Folau
- Brother Mako insists Saracens have proved team spirit by coming through it
- Pair will line up for the club in Champions Cup final against Leinster on Sunday
Mako Vunipola says his brother Billy’s controversial social-media posts that divided the Saracens dressing room were a true test of the team’s togetherness.
Sarries play Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup final on Saturday – their eighth league or European final in six seasons – looking to win the competition for the third time.
But they have been rocked by off-field incidents this season while in pursuit of a third European title, and second continental and domestic double.
Mako Vunipola believes Saracens are stronger after controversy around brother Billy
Aside from an ongoing investigation into whether they have breached the Premiership salary cap, before the semi-final against Munster Billy Vunipola came out in support of fellow Christian, and Australian homophobe, Israel Folau.
Vunipola Jnr, 26, sparked an angry reaction for saying that ‘man was meant for woman to procreate’.
He was dropped by Channel 4 – who will broadcast Saturday’s final – for the post, which has still not been removed, and formally warned by Saracens and the RFU.
And his brother, England prop Mako, said some frank conversations at Allianz Park have kept the squad tight in the aftermath.
‘We always talk about being a close team – and that was a true test of it, whether we are honest about it, and we are doing what we’re saying,’ said the 28-year-old.
‘Billy has been fine. The club have done a great job in dealing with that and allowing us to just focus on the rugby side.
‘The team have been great as well. For him he has done what he’s done now. For me, he has gone out there and done his rugby and let his rugby do the talking.
‘That is all we asked of him, he knows what he’s done and we move on from that, really.
‘That semi-final (against Munster), there was a great feeling around it. It is just now living it, now. This weekend is a completely different challenge and we are looking forward to it.’
Saracens boss Mark McCall hopes supporters will forgive and forget Billy’s actions
Saracens boss Mark McCall hopes his No 8 is not roundly booed again, like he was in Coventry by Irishmen at the semi-final.
‘I hope it’s gone,’ he said.
‘In every season there are things to deal with and contend with and ups and downs and some of the off-pitch stuff are not necessarily what you want to be answering questions about. Last year, it was the seven games in a row that we lost.
‘There is always going to be something, you just have to be able to deal with them.’
Saracens’ squad are preparing for their eighth league or European final in six seasons
And Mako Vunipola says Sarries will take the hurt of their 30-19 defeat to champions Leinster in the quarter-final last year into the showpiece finale.
‘It gave us a kick in the arse for the rest of the season and kind of opened our eyes a bit, in that we probably thought we were something that we weren’t,’ he added.
‘We had to be honest with ourselves. It was probably the best thing that has happened to us. And Leinster showed us there is another step up. It was great for us.’