Six Nations 2016: Vunipola v Faletau 'could be decisive'

Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola
Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola
Six Nations: England v Wales
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 12 March Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on S4C and ITV, commentary on BBC Radio 5 live & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

The battle of the number eights will go a long way to deciding Saturday's Six Nations match between England and Wales, according to Sam Warburton.

The meeting of cousins Taulupe Faletau of Wales and England's Billy Vunipola is being touted as one of the key confrontations at Twickenham.

Wales captain Warburton agrees with that assessment.

"If either has a very good game it's going to go a long way towards that team winning the match," he said.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has called the game a cup final which will probably decide the tournament.

England are top of the table after winning their first three games and are up against a Welsh side who are also unbeaten after recording two wins and a draw.

Mako Vunipola, Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola
Mako Vunipola, Taulupe Faletau and Billy Vunipola are all involved in the England v Wales game

Vunipola's performances have been a key factor in England's success, and he is the leading ball carrier in the tournament.

Wales' success has been built on an unyielding defence in which Faletau has been an outstanding figure.

"Toby's one of the best players I've played with," added Warburton.

"He's gifted in the sense that he can do everything. I don't think anyone could find an attribute that he can't do on the field.

"I think that's going to be a massive battle between those two number eights.

"Billy's been a class act for the past three matches and I've always been impressed with him when I've watched him for Saracens and he's always been one of England's go-to players."

Wales second row Alun Wyn Jones, who will make his 98th appearance for Wales at Twickenham, agrees that Gatland's side will have to contain Vunipola.

Vunipola v Faletau

"Very much so, and hopefully they'll be thinking the same about Toby," he said.

"It's one of the battles within the game.

"Both players are in a fine burst of form, but probably Billy's been the stand out eight in the competition thus far, no disrespect to Toby, I think everyone would agree with that.

"Billy's been the talisman in their pack, he's given them go-forward off the back of a good set piece but also linking up wide with their backline because he's having a bit more licence to play wide and he's been effective doing that."

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