International Pathway

  • England U182008
  • England U182008
  • England U182008
  • England U192009
  • England U202010
  • Saracens2011
  • England2012
  • British & Irish Lions2013
  • British & Irish Lions2013

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As a member of an established Tongan rugby dynasty, Mako Vunipola has made his own mark on the game in a Saracens, England and British & Irish Lions shirt. 

He stepped up for his Test debut against Fiji in November 2012 after making only 15 Premiership appearances, replacing Joe Marler after 46 minutes in the 54-12 victory.

Mako grew into Test level by playing off the bench in seven consecutive matches for England before starting against Italy in March 2013.

Seven months later and with nine Test caps, he made his British & Irish Lions debut against the Barbarians in Hong Kong and completed a remarkable rise to prominence by playing off the bench in the two victories over Australia in Brisbane and Sydney and starting the second Test in Melbourne.

He won his fourth Lions cap in the first Test against New Zealand at Auckland in June 2017 and also started the other two Tests against the All Blacks, which resulted in a 24-21 victory at Wellington and a 15-15 draw at Eden Park.

On his return to the England team, he became the Old Mutual Wealth Man of the Match for his subtle offloads, tackling and tight play in the 21-8 win over Argentina at Twickenham in November 2017.

His maiden Test try against Italy in March 2014 was the first by an England prop in 49 Tests since Dan Cole’s against Ireland in February 2010.

Mako appeared in all five games in the 2016 Six Nations and started the match against France that completed the Grand Slam.

He also started all three summer Tests in Australia in 2016 but, after starting all four matches in the 2016 Old Mutual Wealth Series, sustained a knee ligament injury that ruled him out for two months with his return against Italy in February 2017.

Mako started all five of England’s games in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations as the defending champions finished in fifth position behind Grand Slam champions Ireland.

Mako signed for Saracens, the Premiership champions at the time, from Bristol Rugby in readiness for 2011/12 season and also played on loan for Bedford Blues.

He was elevated to the England Saxons squad in 2012 having appeared for England U18 alongside his brother Billy, after qualifying for England on residency, having been born in Wellington, New Zealand.

Their father Fe’ao, a hooker, emigrated to Wales to play for Pontypool in 1998 and won 32 caps for Tonga, including appearances in the 1995 and 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Remarkably, six of Mako’s uncles and his grandfather represented their native country. Fe’ao was head coach of High Wycombe and then Marlow.

Mako, who has studied Business and Management at the Open University, was educated at West Monmouth School, Castle School in Bristol and Millfield.

His two years in the England U18 side included tours of Argentina and South Africa with the squad but his outstanding rugby memory in his formative years was beating France 18-0 in the 2008 Six Nations Festival in Cork. 

He enjoyed a stunning season in 2010/11 by sharing in the England U20 Grand Slam and their impressive run to the Junior World Championship final.

Mako's club honours with Saracens include Premiership final victories over Bath and Exeter Chiefs in 2015 and 2016, while he also shared in the club’s double European Champions Cup success.

He made 86 tackles during the 2016 European triumph, the most by any forward in the competition that season.

International Record

5 points – 1T

2012 Fj(R), A(R), SA(R), NZ(R) 2013 S(R), I(R), F(R), It, W(R), A 2014 F(R), S(R), I(R), W(R), It 2015 W(R), It(R), I(R), S(R), F(R), F, F(R), I(R) World Cup – Fj(R), W(R), A(R), U 2016 S(R), It, I(R), W(R), F, A(1,2,3), SA, Fj, Arg, A 2017 It(R), S(R), I(R), Arg, A 2018 It, W, S, F, I

Lions: 2013 A (1R, 2, 3R) 2017 NZ(1,2,3)

Last updated: 2 April 2018