A bruising contest between cousins Billy Vunipola of England and Taulupe Faletau of Wales is being hotly anticipated as one of the key skirmishes in deciding Saturday’s Six Nations meeting between the two nations
Wales captain Sam Warburton has forecast “a massive battle” between the two standout number eights of the championship so far.
“He can do everything. I don’t think anyone could find an attribute that he can’t do on the field,” Warburton has said of Faletau while England head coach Eddie Jones asserted that his own number eight could be the best in the world following a man of the match performance against Scotland.
A fusion of the two would certainly be the most unstoppable force at the back of any scrum, with each player excelling in different areas of the game at the Six Nations.
Vunipola’s wrecking ball running has smashed open opportunities in opposition defences for England’s backline to exploit, helping them to more points and four more tries than anyone else in the tournament.
Wales, in contrast, have been best when flexing their muscles in defence and Faletau has exceeded Vunipola on tackling metrics.
The man known as Toby has made more tackles than any other back row forward in the Six Nations so far with 56, while Vunipola has made 32 despite being afforded seven more minutes of game time, reveals data from the Six Nations’ technology partner Accenture .
Furthermore, the Bath forward has been successful with 96 per cent of his tackles while Vunipola has only completed 84 per cent of his attempts.
Yet while Faletau has been busy repelling bodies in Wales’ red wall, Vunipola has been busy breaking down such fortifications.
The Saracens man has made a monstrous 207 metres so far for the Red Rose from 58 carries, dwarfing Faletau’s 46 metres made from 27 carries.
The only downside of all that running? Vunipola has conceded five turnovers to Faletau’s three.
The Englishman’s superior speed is also demonstrated in the fact he averages just 1.17 seconds in reaching the ruck while Faletau is much more labouring, taking 1.90 seconds to get involved.
Neither is a monster at the breakdown, however, with Vunipola winning two turnovers and Faletau just one.