Billy Vunipola’s all-court game shows Ireland must expect far more than simple physicality against England, warns CJ Stander.
Vunipola is in line for just his fifth Test in 27 months having put paid to three broken arms and several knee issues, with the fit-again Saracens number eight back to prime form.
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt has warned his side against England’s “brutality” for Saturday’s Six Nations opener in Dublin, but Munster powerhouse Stander expects plenty of subtlety too.
“I think they are going to bring physicality, but smarts as well,” said Stander, itching to kick-start Ireland’s title defence.
“If you look back over November and those games, they actually spread the ball quite well.
“They have a lot of power in their squad and those threats on the edges, they scored good tries in the November Series, and that is something we need to look at.
“Billy Vunipola is a power athlete. He has footwork to him as well and soft hands.
“A lot of people think he is just going to run over people, but he is actually an all-rounder.
“If you look at what he has done for Saracens this year, he is playing quite well.
“It’s a good match-up; I have played against him before. The last time I think I was blindside, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s another big threat for them.
“Most of the time they play expansive; it is a lot of running.
“The physicality I like. Mostly I am in the scrum and maul and I like the physicality, but it doesn’t matter what we face, there is a standard expected of everyone.”
Ireland are determined not to rise to the bait of England’s “grenades”, as boss Schmidt has termed Eddie Jones and company’s verbal jousting.
England defence coach John Mitchell claimed Ireland will try to “bore the s*** out of us” in Dublin this weekend – but Stander is the latest in Schmidt’s camp to dismiss the brickbats out of hand.
“Did he say that? We do our plays and what we do on the field,” said Stander.
“There is a standard for that in our squad. If that bores them; we just concentrate on our job and what we are doing.
“We go out there and create opportunities for ourselves on attack and defence.
“That is what we are going to concentrate on.”
Asked if he would describe Ireland as boring, Stander added: “My head is normally down in the scrum and the maul. I think the backline has a few skills in it as well.
“We are a team that concentrates on the job at hand.
“We don’t really read much into that, we just concentrate on ourselves, the first weekend of the Six Nations and what we can do.”