England star Billy Vunipola vows to stand up against Wales

‘I’ve been rubbish. I’ve been a coward’: After a poor start to the Six Nations, England’s No 8 promises the real Billy Vunipola will stand up against Wales

  • Vunipola’s below-par displays in the Six Nations have drawn substantial criticism
  • Questions have been asked about whether he should be dropped for Wales game
  • The 28-year-old forward is desperate to make a statement in Cardiff on Saturday

Billy Vunipola knew that his England performances had been ‘rubbish’ after he received a text message from his mum.

The No 8’s below-par displays have drawn widespread criticism, yet it was the words of his parents that resonated the most.

Questions have been asked about whether Vunipola should be dropped for Saturday’s game against Wales and the 28-year-old is desperate to make a statement. 

Billy Vunipola’s below-par displays in the Six Nations so far have drawn widespread criticism

‘Obviously there has been a lot of chat out there that some of the Sarries boys, including myself —especially myself — have been out of form,’ said Vunipola.

‘That isn’t down to a lack of games, it’s my own personal, how do you say it… I just haven’t been playing well. I’ve been playing rubbish. I need to turn up this weekend and that is what I am planning on doing.

‘A lot of questions have been asked about my place within the team. That’s not always a bad thing because sometimes it can make or break a player. I want to show this weekend that I’m worth my place within the squad.

‘At the moment, Eddie (Jones) probably thinks someone has cloned me — the person he thought he had is at home. I need to make sure he’s got the right clone because at the moment he’s got the wrong one.

Questions have been asked about whether Vunipola should be dropped for the Wales game

‘Three weeks ago was the first time that I left my wife and kid at home. I just turned up to camp and I was still the person that I was at home, not the person that I want to be at the weekend.’

Vunipola is hoping to rediscover his ball-carrying ballast. In the 2016 Six Nations, he broke through 25 tackles. So far this year, that figure is just two. The criticism aimed in Vunipola’s direction has not fallen on deaf ears.

‘A lot of it is on Twitter, that’s where you get a lot of the honest people — it’s never bad to get honest reactions from fans,’ said Vunipola. ‘And also my mum…

‘You know you’re playing badly when your mum and dad are the only ones texting you saying they love you and they are here to support you. When your mum and dad send you that text, you’re like, “OK, I’m not doing very well at the moment!”

He is hoping to rediscover his ball-carrying ballast after breaking through just two tackles

With his place in this summer’s Lions squad no longer set in stone, Vunipola admits that he needs to improve his movement around the pitch.

‘Because of my lack of game-time, I am trying to put myself in positions where I don’t have to run as much so that I still get the ball and have the same effect,’ he said.

‘But if you are doing that, you are holding back. So it is important that I don’t do that.

‘There’s a great NFL coach who talked about how fatigue makes a coward out of everyone.

‘I’ve been a bit of a coward over the last two weeks because I have been hiding from being fatigued, I guess you could say.’

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