From Tonga to England via Wales and Harrow, the Saracens star has a fascinating story

Who is Billy Vunipola: Ten things you should know about the England No 8

Billy Vunipola is a powerful No 8 for Saracens and England.

Australia-born and possessing Tongan rugby heritage, he has enhanced his family’s legacy during a career north of the equator.

Ten things you should know about Billy Vunipola

1. Viliami ‘Billy’ Vunipola was born on 3 November 1992 in Sydney. His father, Fe’ao, and his uncles, Manu and Elisi, all played international rugby for Tonga.

2. He was initially brought up in Tonga but moved to Wales aged five when Fe’ao signed for Pontypool, before later relocating to Bristol.

Despite his father’s best efforts to direct them away from a rugby career, both Billy and elder brother Mako were determined to follow in their family’s footsteps.

Billy and Mako Vunipola

Billy and Mako pose for the camera shortly after Billy joined his brother at Saracens (Getty Images)

3. Physically dominant in age-group rugby, Vunipola earned a scholarship to Harrow and joined the Wasps Academy while still studying at the prestigious institution. He made his senior debut for the club against Harlequins in Abu Dhabi in January 2011.

4. After being selected for England U18, U20 and Saxons squads, he earned his first senior England cap against Argentina in June 2013, scoring his first Test try.

5. He signed for Saracens in 2013, joining Mako at the north London club. The pair have since played together for England on dozens of occasions.

6. Vunipola won his first senior silverware in 2015 when Saracens beat Bath in the Premiership final.

He was a key player in the period of dominance that followed, as Saracens won three more Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups over the next four seasons.

7. He started all five matches of England’s 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam, and wore the No 8 jersey throughout England’s historic 3-0 series victory in Australia that summer.

8. Vunipola also helped his country reach the Rugby World Cup final in 2019, although South Africa claimed the title with a commanding 32-12 victory in Yokohama.

9. Vunipola was selected for the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand, but subsequently pulled out due to a shoulder injury. He was overlooked for the 2021 tour to South Africa.

10. He stayed with Saracens after the club was relegated in 2020 for salary cap breaches and helped them win Championship promotion in 2021.

After an excellent 2021-22 domestic season, Vunipola was picked for England’s summer tour of Australia – his first call-up in more than a year.

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