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  1. ITV Report

England's Billy Vunipola reveals how he'll feel as he takes on dad's home country Tonga at Rugby World Cup

  • Video report by ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott

England's Billy Vunipola has spoken of the deep personal emotions he will feel when he takes the field against Tonga - his father's home nation - at the Rugby World Cup.

Sunday's game in the Sapporo Dome will be England's opener in the tournament being staged in Japan.

The giant No.8 was a youngster in the crowd at Twickenham supporting dad Fe'ao and the Tongans as they took on England at the 1999 World Cup.

He told ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott that despite fact the Tongans "got pumped" that day - they were beaten 101-10 - he had a strong connection to the South Pacific Island.

"I think it will be very, very emotional, cos that's where my grandparents are from, that's where my parents are from... the image of their heads come into my head, makes me feel happy."

On his extended family, he said they'd love for Tonga to do well but they're "pretty loyal to us".

Vinupola is a vital part of this England side and he has struggled with his own long-term injury problems.

He missed the Lions tour and many England games, but says his faith got him through.

"Praying is my version of meditating, praying is my version of people talking to psychologists, it kinda just takes weight off my shoulders," he said.

"And if I'm the best version of myself, then hopefully that will help the team."

Vunipola, whose brother Mako also plays for England, said a World Cup win would create a special bond between the 31 players and all the management.

The team is using both England's triumph in 2003 but also the humiliation of crashing out at home in the group stages in 2015 as motivation this time around.

"The biggest thing to come out of it was our relationships; were we as close, can we get to a position where you might not necessarily like someone but you respect them and get on with them," he said.

"That's something we're constantly pushing for because we know if we get to that stage, we'll make a great team."

He said sometimes "your time isn't right", but that the focus was very much on delivering in Japan.

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