Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Vunipola confident England remain on track to excel at the World Cup

Eddie Jones’ side surrendered a big lead to draw with Scotland on Saturday.

Billy Vunipola played in all five Six Nations fixtures for England (Gareth Fuller/PA Images)
Billy Vunipola played in all five Six Nations fixtures for England (Gareth Fuller/PA Images)

Billy Vunipola insists England have no need to panic about their Six Nations setbacks  because they remain on course to excel at the World Cup.

Rugby round up Newsletter

Game previews, plus expert insights and exclusive commentary from the Belfast Telegraph sports team.

Head coach Eddie Jones had spoken of Saturday’s fixture with Scotland as a chance to make a statement ahead of this autumn’s competition, but where they had started the day hoping to finish as Six Nations champions, they finished it regretting a second-half collapse.

England surrendered a 31-point advantage before falling behind and eventually securing a 38-38 draw which, combined with their defeat by Wales, who they had also led, suggests they remain short of the qualities required to win the World Cup Jones will have spent four years building towards.

England surrendered a 31-point lead against Scotland (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Their only World Cup success, in 2003, came after Clive Woodward’s side had that year won the Grand Slam and long been the Six Nations’ leading team, but for all of their relative instability, the 26-year-old Vunipola is unconcerned.

The England and Saracens number eight told Press Association Sport: “The way we attacked teams. The way we put points on such good defences; that’s something we can really take forward.

“We’re happy where we are in comparison to last year, when we finished fifth. There was never any doubt how good we were going. It’s just a shame there’s games we just didn’t quite finish off.

Billy Vunipola remains confident on England’s World Cup chances (Adam Davy/PA)

“I don’t think there’s any consequences for anything or that anyone did anything wrong.

“We’ve got to relax, (not) get hung up on results that could have gone our way. There’s lessons to learn; how to finish teams off, how to close out the big games, what we can go to when we lose a bit of our shape. They’ll become more prominent in our preparation, and in our review.

“But we don’t need to overthink it. Only last year Ireland were world-beaters and now they’re struggling to find some form; there’s plenty of evidence that teams that don’t go in with the best form have done well.

There's lessons to learn; how to finish teams off, how to close out the big games

“It’s about experiencing those things to propel you to bigger things.”

If England are to succeed in Japan from September, they will almost certainly need the influential Vunipola performing to his best.

His absence through injury from last year’s Six Nations contributed to their concerning fifth-placed finish but, after a succession of fitness concerns, he featured in all five of this season’s fixtures to at least strike a positive personal note.

“I’m massively excited to have been back playing,” he said. “I’d have liked to have a better say in some of our games, but I guess I’m still trying to find my feet.

England’s head coach Eddie Jones has stressed the need to improve the mentality of his side (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“I can definitely get better; I still don’t feel I’m there, I’m still scratching my way to where I was before.

“Everyone judges me to a different standard now, because of the games I played a few years ago, and that’s the pressure that’s been put on me, so I’ve just got to find my way to that level.”

:: Land Rover is the official vehicle partner of Premiership Rugby; Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. @LandRoverRugby



From Belfast Telegraph