Billy Vunipola interview: England No 8 vows to banish complacency to secure World Cup spot

The Saracens forward has been superb since losing his place in November

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The Independent Online

Billy Vunipola admits that he allowed complacency to get the better of him earlier in the season which saw Ben Morgan regain the No 8 shirt for England in November, but stresses that he will work harder than ever to keep it for the World Cup.

The Saracens forward was dropped by England head coach Stuart Lancaster during a patch of poor form that he admits was not good enough, but a strong start to 2015 saw him return to the starting line-up and star in the Six Nations championship where England came within six points of winning the title.

Having been named on the shortlist for the Green Flag Forward of the Year award, which on Wednesday night went to Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes, Vunipola says that he needs to keep pushing himself in order to stay ahead of the chasing pack, comprised of the likes of Morgan, Nick Easter of Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs' Thomas Waldrom.

 

“I think that was the mistake I made in November that I felt like it was mine when it’s not” Vunipola told The Independent at the Premiership Rugby awards. “Someone said that you’re only borrowing the shirt and once you’re done with it then someone else will be wearing it. We’re all going for the same shirt and it’s tough competition when we’re fighting tooth and nail every session to win the shirt.”

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Vunipola was named in the England World Cup training squad (Getty)

The 22-year-old acknowledges three things that he must do in order to stay in Lancaster’s starting XV for the first World Cup game against Fiji on 18 September.

“Be fit, as in fit enough to play in the team. Stay injury-free and perform to the level that I am now, if not better, because I know Ben Morgan is coming hard, Nick Easter too, and I think Dave Ewers is also a bit unlucky to miss out,” Vunipola adds.

“That’s a decision that has been made and I’ve still got a lot of competition to fight off. It’s quite scary that you say I’ve got the No 8 shirt at the moment because we’re all pushing for it.”

Shortly before attending the award ceremony, Vunipola was named in Lancaster’s 50-man World Cup training squad that will be whittled down to 31 for the home tournament later this year. Alongside him will be Saracens team-mate Maro Itoje, with the 20-year-old called up to train with England for the first time after enjoying a breakthrough season at Allianz Park this year.

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Vunipola was a key part of England's bid for the Six Nations (Getty)

Vunipola explains that while Itoje is a big game player that can stand up and be counted when it matters most, he is not the same person off it as he tends to be on the quieter side of things.

“On the pitch he’s very confident of his abilities,” says Vunipola. “He’s strong and he’s one of those players that you want on your team because he’ll take the onus on himself and make something happen, and we can always do with players like that. Off the pitch, he’s very softly spoken and very humble, and just a genuine guy honestly.”

Billy Vunipola was shortlisted for Green Flag Forward of the Season at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards. Follow @GreenFlagUK or visit www.greenflag.com to keep up to date with the breakdown cover provider.

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