Vunipola: England ‘wanted to shock All Blacks’

PUBLISHED: 15:03 27 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:03 27 October 2019

England's Billy Vunipola in action during the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi final against New Zealand (pic David Davies/PA)

England's Billy Vunipola in action during the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi final against New Zealand (pic David Davies/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola has revealed that England wanted to “shock” New Zealand in the opening 20 minutes of their unforgettable World Cup semi-final performance.

Centre Manu Tuilagi set the tone with a try after just 97 seconds, and then it was virtually mistake-free rugby during an opening half when England hit new heights under head coach Eddie Jones.

New Zealand ultimately fell to a first World Cup defeat since 2007, ending a run of 18 successive tournament victories as England stormed home 19-7.

"The challenge was either you try to do it to them, or they will do it to you," said England number eight Vunipola.

"We tried to do that from the get-go, and we did that. It was about trying to shock them.

"Maro (Itoje) and everyone else has said it, that we wanted to shock them in the first 20 minutes because that is when they begin their process of wearing teams down.

"We did not want to be one of those teams who were worn down. I thought we did really well from the opening minute.

"They are not the number one team in the world for no reason. They don't give you easy points. You have to work for everything.

"You have to play in the right area and I thought our generals were amazing at putting us in the right places and giving us the opportunity to get our breath back.

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"Once they have got the ball they will go from anywhere. They are extremely accurate with their skills and obviously a lot of teams try to base themselves off what they do.

"Like Eddie said when he first came in, we just want to be England. If that means that we are not as good-looking as them, then so be it. We are different. We play our own brand of rugby.

"A lot of people were doubting us because of all the games that we lost to New Zealand. We got written off, and we just wanted to come out and put in a good performance.

"At the start of the week, Eddie wanted us to rewrite history. We have gone one step towards doing that, and we have another game next week."

England will contest their fourth World Cup final in Yokohama next Saturday and target a second victory following the Jonny Wilkinson-inspired success of 16 years ago.

"It's awesome (to be in the final). We want to try to win it - that's our mindset," Vunipola added.

Vunipola, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill forged a formidable England back-row unit and all three can now set their sights on challenging for rugby union's biggest prize.

Curry said: "You have to take the occasion in and not let it pass you by, but control is massive to our game and we have to make sure we deliver that again.

"We don't want to do a disservice to ourselves because of the occasion. The World Cup is such a fast-moving pace that we have to shift our focus quickly.

"Was there a point when I thought we had them (New Zealand)? Yes, at 80 minutes. When the whistle went, we got them - we had to stay focused for the entire game.

"You can get ahead of yourself, but one of the great things about this team is that it is down to earth. You have to enjoy occasions like this because they don't come around that often, but we are very good at focusing on the next task."

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