Wellington-born Vunipola grew up idolising All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu, while his father Fe’ao, a former Tonga captain, once described his son as the ‘next Olo Brown’, a nod to the 56-test All Blacks prop.”When I was growing up I watched the All Blacks and I loved them, mostly because of Jonah Lomu,” Vunipola told reporters on Friday ahead of the second test at Wellington Regional Stadium.”I always wanted to be like him.”Vunipola left New Zealand as a child when his father moved to Wales for a professional rugby contract. The week of the second test is the 26-year-old’s first trip back to Wellington.Along with younger brother Billy, who was also selected for the tour but withdrew with a shoulder injury, Vunipola spent his early life in Pontypool and his Welsh valleys accent is still prevalent.While their father wanted both his sons to play for Wales, Mako progressed through the England age-group system after a move to Gloucestershire and a scholarship to the Millfield School in Somerset.He made his England debut in 2012 and played all three tests on the 2013 Lions tour of Australia. He has cemented himself as the first choice loosehead prop on the current tour.Vunipola was stung by last week’s 30-15 loss to the All Blacks at Eden Park, particularly after Lions coach Warren Gatland said his team had lacked the physicality to match the world champions.”It was him laying the gauntlet down to us and it’s up to us to accept it,” Vunipola said. “We are going into the game wounded and pride is on the line (and) … I wanted the opportunity to go out there and prove him wrong.”I don’t know if that’s what he meant, but it’s up to us to prove him wrong and send out a statement.”A statement performance is what is needed for the tourists, who arrived as arguably the best team to tour New Zealand since the 1971 side that clinched the only test series victory over the All Blacks.Vunipola said the team had been in intense training sessions and spoken at length about the challenge to send the series back to a decider at Eden Park on July 8th.”We know the task in front of us is immense … (and) we have spoken about this being the biggest game of our lives,” Vunipola said. Photo: Photosport
Scotiabank, who pride themselves as sponsors of the regional game, starting from the youth level, pumped a 25 per cent increase into this year’s Scotiabank/Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) Prep Schools Cricket competition yesterday.The increase will bring the sponsorship package to $5 million, along with MVP cash prizes of $50,000 for players in the counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey.”This increase in sponsorship is a testimony to our continued belief in the importance of investing in youth through developmental sports,” said Yanique Forbes-Patrick, vice-president, Scotiabank Marketing.”Always play your best game. Strive to be the best on your team. Be champions in your own right and make a difference in everything you do,” she implored the youngsters during yesterday’s launch at Lucas Cricket Club, after which defending champions Quest Prep and Richmond Prep played the competition’s opening game.BETTER CITIZENSCourtney Francis, CEO, Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), lauded Scotiabank for ensuring that “cricket is part of the medium to make you all (players) better citizens, more responsible, understand and learn at this stage how to be part of a team and how to be able to contribute to society”.Quest were crowned national champions for the first time last year, after defeating Hydel Prep by 10 runs in the final at Lucas.Hydel, the most successful school with two national titles (2012, 2013) and four in Surrey, followed by St Peter and Paul, Monymusk, Mona, Lannaman, Belair Prep and Quest one each.In Cornwall, there are only two winners; Denis Tobin in 2005 and 2006, while St James have been unbeatable since 2007.Quest’s coach, Leonard Malcolm, told The Gleaner his team is missing about eight players from last year, “but we are a competitive school and we are going to compete to try and retain our crown”.The competition will run to June 12 and feature a total of 48 teams, with approximately 121 matches across three counties.The competition began in 2003 and has grown from 24 schools to 48; 24 from Kingston and St Andrew and St Catherine, 12 from Middlesex and 12 from Cornwall.Prep school standouts to come from the competition include Brandon King, who has represented Jamaica at all levels, Brad Barnes (2013), Raewin Senior (2014) and Kirk McKenzie last year.West Indies’ World T20 men and women’s champions, Marlon Samuels and Stafanie Taylor, respectively, also participated and signed bats and balls for the youngsters.