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Billy Vunipola: Freedom has elevated my game

Published 28/02/2016

Billy Vunipola was immense against Ireland
Billy Vunipola was immense against Ireland

Billy Vunipola insists his emergence as England's standout performer in the RBS 6 Nations is a result of the shackles being taken off by head coach Eddie Jones.

Vunipola was named man of the match for the second time in three games under the Australian after rampaging across Twickenham as champions Ireland were dispatched 21-10 in a full-blooded title clash.

The 23-year-old has been given greater responsibility having been appointed as one of the squad's three vice captains and has been issued with the remit of inflicting as much damage as possible upon opponents.

Jones has said Vunipola can be the outstanding number eight in the game and the Saracens back row is revelling amid the show of faith.

"I don't think you'd find anyone in the workplace who, when their boss tells them they've done a good job, would be head down, walking through corridors and not really wanting to talk," Vunipola said.

"He's given me the freedom to go out there and play my game, get the ball in my hands early and try to make things happen.

"Also in defence, he wants me to try to smash people. He's encouraging me to do everything. I'm doing OK so hopefully I'll keep that up and not disappoint him.

"We're not being told to act in a certain way. I'm not having a dig at anyone here, but I can go out there and try to play my game, imposing myself in any way I can.

"He's given me that freedom and that's something I've thrived on so far and hopefully I can carry that on.

"This is most probably the best three games I've put together for England. That was the biggest thing for me, that consistency. But also playing well.

"I think I played OK last Six Nations but I wasn't at the level everyone else was at.

"Now I think I'm a bit fitter than I was this time last year and I'm able to do what I said I always wanted to do at international level and I'm happy with that."

Vunipola's reward for scattering Ireland in a key victory for the Jones regime is a cheat meal.

"That's what I hold out for all week. Whatever is flying about. I'm easy - chips, burgers, chocolate, whatever," Vunipola said.

Ireland were on the receiving end of England's best performance of the Six Nations to date and their attack is beginning to take shape with players standing flatter and placing greater pace on the ball.

Anthony Watson and Mike Brown ran in second-half tries to sweep the game out of reach, but it was the performance of George Ford at fly-half that really caught the eye of Jones.

"George was beautiful out there, beautiful. Poetry in motion. If (former Australia coach) Bob Dwyer was here, he'd be that happy. He was flat, at the line, committing defenders. He was wonderful," Jones said.

"Our alignment was so much better with the speed of the ball. That is my vision of George. His great skill is to be able to take the ball, go to the line and then deliver the right pass and we saw signs of that.

"I think that is the best international game this Six Nations and he will get better."

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