Vunipola v Faletau will ‘shake ground’

Taulupe Faletau tackles Billy Vunipola during the 2015 World Cup match between England and Wales

Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola played junior rugby together in Gwent

The collision between rival number eights Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola could be a highlight of England versus Wales, according to Welsh hooker Ken Owens.

The Tongan-born cousins are set to face-off after Vunipola’s man-of-the-match show for England against Ireland.

“A lot’s been made of Billy’s carrying, and Toby’s been absolutely phenomenal in defence for us,” said Owens.

“So it’ll be an interesting battle that’ll get the ground shaking!”

Vunipola made 18 carries for a total gain of 96 metres against Ireland, while Faletau was Wales’s top tackler with 20 against France.

Faletau and the Vunipola brothers, Billy and prop Mako, grew up together in Pontypool before the Vunipola family moved to England.


Taulupe Faletau has made 55 appearances for Wales

“They’re both world-class number eights who are both at the top of their game at the moment,” said Owens.

Hartley on the edge

Owens says he won’t be out to wind-up England captain Dylan Hartley at Twickenham, despite his opponent’s poor disciplinary record.

Hartley has totalled more than a year in bans for gouging, biting, butting and swearing at an official – missing the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour and the 2015 World Cup as a result.

But Owens says he won’t try to incite anything if they come head-to-head.

“I don’t think you ever go on the pitch to try to wind anybody up, you concentrate on your own game. I’ve played against him once this season (for Scarlets against Northampton), he’s definitely a slightly different character but that’s the way he plays the game,” he said.


Ken Owens played in Wales’ World Cup win over England at Twickenham

“He’s right on the edge and that’s what makes him the player he is in terms of ball-carrying and being a big tackler.”

England ‘obvious favourites’

The 29 year-old Owens, who has 37 caps but only eight starts to his credit, is trying to claim underdog status for Wales despite their World Cup victory at Twickenham in October.

“They’re obviously favourites aren’t they, they’re top of the table and we’re going to their home patch- a new coach comes in, they get a freshen-up and a new environment.

“They’ve got a more settled side, they’re consistent in some of their selections and they’ve got some good youngsters coming through- some of them quite unknown to us, so we’re going to have to be on the money.”

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