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20th Apr 2019

Munster fan confronts Billy Vunipola on the pitch after Saracens win

Saracens star Billy Vunipola was subject to some heckling from fans during the Champions Cup semi final and he gave something back near the end.

Patrick McCarry

“It’s been a tough week for him”

Billy Vunipola opened himself up to a storm after taking to social media last week to like and then defend controversial posts from Australian star Israel Folau.

The Saracens and England No.8 liked a Folau post that claimed sinners, which to his mind included homosexuals, were going to hell unless they repented.

He revealed that he had received phone calls from people urging him to reverse that action. Vunipola tried to explain that Folau was seeking those he addressed to live their lives ‘closer to how God intended them to be’.

The RFU handed out a warning to the England international but the matter is expected to be dropped there. Vunipola spoke with his ow teammates at a Monday morning get-together and while frank views were shared, the players vowed to focus on this weekend’s semi-final.

Saracens stuck to those words and brought a level of relentlessness and power to the semi that Munster struggled to live up to.

It was 12-9 at half-time but 13 unanswered points after the break had Saracens in the box seats. Darren Sweetnam’s try gave Munster hope but those were soon extinguished when Vunipola rode a couple of tackles near the Munster tryline to get the ball down.

As Owen Farrell converted, Vunipola headed back to his half of the pitch. There were a mixture of heckles and cheers, as there had been throughout the game, but they were louder in those moments and Vunipola raised both arms, as if leading the symphony of noise.

Then, directed at the Saracens fans, he thumped his club badge before giving them the thumbs up.

(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Over on BT Sport, the commentators spoke of Vunipola as the victim of a torrid time of it – “It’s been a tough week for him.” There was little focus on the fact that the player willingly waded into the Folau debate to speak up for him and share a few of his own views as he was at it.

Following the game, after copping more boos from fans on a victory lap, Vunipola told BT Sport that it was never his intention ‘to hurt anyone’ with his comments on social media.

He was confronted by a fan wearing Munster gear, on the pitch, during that victory lap. The fan gave Vunipola a piece of his mind before being escorted away by stewards.

Asked if he had a message for those that had heckled him during the game, Vunipola said he hoped some of them would be able to make it along to the final, in Newcastle next month, to watch him play.