Twenty-one-year-old, five-cap England No 8 Billy Vunipola won his battle against France 'veteran' Louis Picamoles, writes MARK SALTER.
If there were a Man of the Duel award, it would go to the Australian-born Tongan playing for England.
He was outstanding, once again, particularly with his determined ball-carrying. It was no coincidence that he had a hand in both England tries, being on hand to flip the ball to Mike Brown after Danny Care's scything break; and then crashing through the French defence to offload to Luther Burrell for the second try.
With such a young backline outside Owen Farrell (from 11-14, England boasted just nine caps, including two debutants), England were always going to keep it close to the powerpack; and they are developing a formidable unit which can not only hold its own in the set piece (apart from Dan Coles being skewered by Thomas Domingo on Saturday), but is remarkably mobile. Vunipola was the driving force, constantly supporting scrumhalf Care, who provided the spark.
Vunipola was not one for going to ground, and often pulled in three or four defenders. According to one stat-man, he made 68m with 17 carries, but more important was the timing of his contributions. He is gaining a reputation, too, for he was outstanding in England's fightback against New Zealand in November, when he showed he was not afraid to run at the world champions.
Picamoles, who at 27 now has 39 caps, spent much of the past six months on the treatment table after being injured in the second Test against New Zealand on the Tour to Misery in June. He made a couple of telling runs in his first Test back, including one outstanding effort which ended when Dimitri Szarzewski was bundled out beyond the England 10m line. But overall, he was overshadowed by the performance of his Toulouse team-mate Yannick Nyanga.
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