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Billy Vunipola: Series win over Australia has earned England respect

Published 21/06/2016

Billy Vunipola has helped England to their first series victory over Australia
Billy Vunipola has helped England to their first series victory over Australia

Billy Vunipola believes England have clawed back respect in the southern hemisphere with their series victory over Australia.

Eight months after collapsing to a chastening group exit from the World Cup, the Red Rose have re-established their reputation on both sides of the equator under the guidance of head coach Eddie Jones.

The RBS 6 Nations produced a first Grand Slam for 13 years and they now stand on the cusp of a glorious whitewash of the Wallabies - victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday would complete a 3-0 series triumph.

Summer tours have traditionally been unsuccessful for European teams, but Vunipola believes England have rebuilt their credibility Down Under.

"I think the respect is there now. There's been a lot of attention when we've been on the beach or just walking through town. Usually no one would care," the Saracens back row said.

"Usually teams beat us and we go back to England. Half of me thinks 'good, at least they know we mean business'.

"But the other half of me thinks 'I don't really care, as long as we are doing the business on the pitch'.

"We said at the start of the tour that we wanted to win 3-0. We can't let up now because we made promises and we can't break them."

Vunipola made a strong contribution to the victories in Brisbane and Melbourne without scaling the heights of the Six Nations when his bulldozing displays secured him three man of the match awards.

The 23-year-old is flourishing amid the belief shown in him by Jones, whereas under the previous regime he was never fully convinced of his worth to the team.

Jones has challenged him to become the best number eight in the world yet despite his recent success, Vunipola believes he has a long way to go before taking an accolade currently held by New Zealand's Kieran Read.

"There are probably seven guys in front of me. The likes of Kieran Read, Toby Faletau, Jamie Heaslip, David Denton, David Pocock and Duane Vermeulen. I'm just pushing forward," Vunipola said.

"They've been playing four or five years at the top level and I've only just come up.

"Eddie wants me to be this player that I don't even see myself. He wants me to be challenging the best number eights in the world.

"Now that he's told me, I think why not? That's my goal, that's what I'm working towards.

"First I have to get in the team, but then I have to push towards more than just playing for England and playing well."

Sydney-born Vunipola has been avoiding family living in the city since England's arrival from Melbourne on Sunday.

Vunipola struggles to keep his weight in check and knows that time spent with family will involve eating large quantities of food.

"Some of them actually live around Coogee, but I'm refusing to even pretend like we know each other. I just don't want to go out of the hotel. I need to stay away from my aunties!" he said.

"I'll see them after the game, there's plenty of time. This week, the focus is on Australia and not meeting the family.

"One of my grandmothers lives here and my mum's family is based here. I come here every year on my way to Tonga so it's a familiar place."

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