Vunipola ready for clash with inspirational former coach Sanderson

Saracens' Mako Vunipola dejected after the game
Saracens' Mako Vunipola dejected after the game

Mako Vunipola admits Alex Sanderson gave him the confidence to reach the pinnacle of professional rugby.

However, the two friends will become foes when Saracens face Sale Sharks in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final.

Sharks' Director of Rugby was a coach at Saracens for 13 years, during which time he helped nurture the likes of Vunipola on their journey to Gallagher Premiership Rugby stardom.

And having worked with Sanderson since the age of 17, the prop knows that Sharks will be ready to ask some tough questions of Sarries at Twickenham.

"He has been great for me, more on a personal level than anything else," said Vunipola.

"Before he is a coach, he is a great person.

"Me and Alex started working together when I was 16 or 17, he was the first one who gave me a shot at the age group stuff and gave me the confidence that I can play at the highest level.

"To have the opportunity to work with him at Sarries for so long was a privilege, he is a man that wears his heart on his sleeve.

"He will have a calm demeanour on the outside, but inside you'll know that his heart is pounding and he is feeling everything on the field.

"It was no different on the weekend in the semi-final. We know that doesn't take away from his ability as a coach, to put detail into a chaotic game.

"We know that Sale will be pumped for it, we know that they will have a plan and a lot of that will be because of the work that he does alongside the leaders at Sale."

Saracens reached their seventh Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final in ten years with a 38-15 triumph over Northampton Saints.

Sharks contested a closer semi-final at Salford Stadium, with Sanderson leading his side to a 21-13 win against defending champions Leicester Tigers.

Vunipola was not surprised to see Sharks go from strength to strength under Sanderson this season.

He added: "I think he has proven what we always knew here at Saracens, how special he is as a coach and as a person.

"We knew that if he did the same at Sale that success would come to them as a team.

"Whether that is finishing higher in the league or the team itself or the players enjoying what they are doing.

"Having been around some of their players with England, they can't speak highly enough of him and what he has done for the team.

"That speaks a lot to his character and what he is trying to build there at Sale.

"It would be great to catch up with him after the game, but obviously we have a job to do before that."

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