9:02am Thursday 27th February 2014
TAULUPE Faletau knows from bruising experience about how much England will miss number eight Billy Vunipola in the crunch Six Nations encounter with Wales.
The Lions back row forward had many a backyard tussle with the Saracens ace when the cousins grew up in Pontypool and has also been on the losing side in two European encounters when in the colours of Newport Gwent Dragons.
Vunipola has made a huge impact for England since making his Test debut against Argentina last summer and made a whopping 33 carries in the Six Nations fixtures against France and Scotland.
However, the 21-year-old, who moved from London Wasps to join his brother Mako at Saracens this season, suffered an ankle injury in the hard-fought win against Ireland and will miss the rest of the tournament.
Ben Morgan, who has impressed off the bench, will compensate for his absence but England will miss their big ball-carrying double act.
"It's a big blow for them to lose Billy because he has been playing well throughout the tournament," said Faletau. "Ben Morgan has done well coming off the bench but Billy's a big loss.
"It would have be nice to go up against him, it would have been fun but tough. He's done so well with his ball-carrying and is a hard man to stop but he is also very good at the breakdown – once he is on the ball he is tough to move.
"He has played well throughout the Six Nations and it's a shame it had to end this way but Ben Morgan is a strong carrier as well and I am sure he will fill in well for Billy."
Whoever triumphs at Twickenham a week on Sunday will be in pole position to win the title and hooker Richard Hibbard expects a much, much tighter than last year's 30-3 demolition of Stuart Lancaster's Grand Slam-chasing side.
"England are playing very well at the moment," said hooker Richard Hibbard. "I thought they did well out in France and were unlucky to lose (to a last-gasp try).
"They have two great results (beating Scotland and Ireland) since so we know it's going to be a very tough game. They are a confident team at the minute.
"Every game is different, so you can't really look at last year's match in the championship. I think this will be a different kind of game, but still a physical encounter."
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