Six Nations 2016: Billy Vunipola on course to shatter England records in Grand Slam decider v France

 
Joe Hall
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England v Wales - RBS Six Nations
Record breaker? Vunipola has been in unstoppable form for England in the Six Nations (Source: Getty)

England’s task on Saturday is simple: beat France in Paris and crown a first Six Nations title in five years with a first Grand Slam since 2003.

Should they do so, Eddie Jones’s men could be forgiven for paying little heed to the championship stats as they crack open beers in the Stade de France dressing room.

Yet for Billy Vunipola – arguably the player of the tournament so far with two man of the match performances for England – there are a number of personal accolades within his grasp too.

The wrecking ball No8 needs to carry the ball just twice during the game in order to record the most carries in a single tournament of any England player in Six Nations history.

Read more: England No8 Vunipola cites new-found carefree attitude as big factor in his swashbuckling form

Vunipola is currently on 75 carries for the tournament, according to data from Accenture, official technology partner of the Six Nations – one behind winger Ben Cohen, who set the pace in 2002.

Player name Carries
Ben Cohen (2002) 76
Billy Vunipola (2016) 75
Nick Easter (2006) 72
Ben Cohen (2004) 71
Nick Easter (2001) 67

The Saracens man has crossed the gainline 40 times, which amounts to 53.3 per cent of his carries – a higher ratio than any of the top 40 carriers in England’s Six Nations history.

Also within Vunipola’s sights is the record for defenders beaten. In his five games so far, Vunipola has beaten 20 defenders – five behind the record set in 2014 by team-mate Mike Brown, who won that year’s player of the tournament award.

Player name Defenders beaten
Mike Brown (2014) 25
Jason Robinson (2001) 24
Matt Dawson (2000) 22
Jason Robinson (2002) 22
Billy Vunipola (2016) 20

Having covered 255m with the ball, Vunipola has carried for more metres than any other back row forward in the competition. Indeed, Italy’s Sergio Parisse is the only other to have exceeded 100m.

Vunipola has been amply supported by his fellow back-row forwards and, following England’s victory over Wales last Saturday, it was Chris Robshaw who Jones cited as his key player in the tournament.

Yet since being relieved of the England captaincy and shifted from blindside to openside flanker, Robshaw’s workload has dropped and he has hit seven fewer rucks per game, eight fewer tackles and has increased his average time to a ruck from 1.48 seconds to 1.97 seconds.

At an average speed of 0.83 seconds, James Haskell at blindside has been the second quickest player to the ruck in the entire tournament so far, helping to become one of only four players to have turned over from a tackle more than once.

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