The Queen has joked with two of England's rugby stars about the fitness levels of the UK's players as she celebrated the achievements of the Commonwealth.

Brothers Billy and Mako Vunipola, who have Tongan heritage but were brought up in the UK, laughed when they said the Queen questioned the widely held view that today's rugby sportsmen were tougher and fitter.

The monarch was hosting a Buckingham Palace reception for the Commonwealth diaspora in the UK and was joined at the event by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

Billy said:
Billy said: "It's a massive honour that we are here and a privilege, something we will probably brag to our mum about." Photo / Getty Images

Prime Minister Theresa May and husband Philip made a surprise appearance as did Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who earlier in the day had given a major speech on Brexit.

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Mako, who was part of the England team that beat Wales at the weekend in a Six Nations match, said: "She was saying that apparently rugby is getting a lot tougher now, everyone's fitter but she can't see it."

His brother quipped: "I think she was calling us fat - which is fair enough."

The event heralded the start of a series of major Commonwealth events this year culminating in a heads of government meeting for global leaders in London this April.

Billy, who has missed out on Six Nations rugby due to a broken forearm, said: "It's a massive honour that we are here and a privilege, something we will probably brag to our mum about."

The rugby-playing brothers towered over the Queen who spent almost two hours chatting to those invited to the palace reception.

Among the guests was celebrity chef Monica Galetti from New Zealand, Sheku Kanneh-Mason the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland.

Samoan-born New Zealand chef, Monica Galetti, leans in to greet the Queen. Photo / Getty Images
Samoan-born New Zealand chef, Monica Galetti, leans in to greet the Queen. Photo / Getty Images