Six Nations 2014: Billy Vunipola wants England to lose tag of 'nearly men' after late defeat by France

 

stade de france

Billy Vunipola believes England are in danger of becoming the "nearly men" of international rugby after their 26-24 loss to France at the start of the Six Nations' Championship.

Having lost to New Zealand in the autumn when England had a great opportunity to defeat the world champions for a second successive season, the Saracens No 8 put in a Herculean effort to overcome the French, who staged a last-gasp fightback to snatch the game. Vunipola said: "We have to stop being the nearly men and start winning these kind of matches, because it's heartbreaking to lose after putting in so much effort.

"I was watching those last minutes on the bench and it was squeaky- bum time, because you know what France can do.

"Hopefully we can now do what Wales did and win the Six Nations after losing the first game. We have to bounce back against Scotland."

Captain Chris Robshaw disagreed with Vunipola when it came to the "nearly men" tag, but admitted his players had to start nailing down games when they get into a lead. "I don't think we are nearly men and we gave them too many points' start," Robshaw said. "It is gutting losing like that.

"We have to look at why we are allowing sides that kind of lead. We did fight back really well, and we saw last season that Wales won the Championship after starting with a defeat. We have to take inspiration from their lead."

Philippe Saint-André, the French coach, deflected criticism of the period when his side looked second best, saying: "We were lucky to score two early tries, and in the second half it was more difficult. We did win the game and we must remember that, and it is a great start to the season.

"I will not say that this is a revolution for the team, it's been an evolution, and I want to say thanks for the union and the clubs for letting us have two weeks preparation for this game. Without that we wouldn't have won that match. The next step is to work on having a full break in the summer.

"It is true that at 16-3 up we mismanaged the game and were less aggressive. That is when England put us under a lot of pressure, but the fresh French players came on and in the last 15 minutes that helped us find some openings.

"This is the beginning of the story of a young team and we know where we have to improve – particularly the line-out and our defence."

The French captain, Pascal Papé, who was part of the wooden-spoon side last season, added: "Yes, it was a really tough game and England played really well. It's good to have a smile back on our faces and we can't say we were reborn – but we learnt our lessons from 2013.

"The spirit in the team was the most important, particularly in the difficult moments."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot