England No.8 Billy Vunipola is flourishing after feeling the love of head coach Eddie Jones.
Vunipola was magnificent as the RBS 6 Nations was launched with a 15-9 victory over Scotland on Saturday, emerging as the dominant force in the Red Rose pack and taking the man of the match award as a result.
The 23-year-old, one of the squad’s three vice-captains, is to have a prominent role under Jones and the Australian reacted to his performance at Murrayfield by stating he can become the game’s outstanding player in his position.
“I respond to the love and compassion Eddie shows the boys, me especially. He is very personable,” Vunipola said. “He has been really good for me since he came in. He has just filled me with confidence and that is something I thrive on.
“I don’t need someone to shout at me. I know what I have to do. I just need someone to reassure me and look after me.”
Billy Vunipola was named man of the match at Murrayfield. David Rogers/Getty Images
Vunipola insists England are benefiting from being allowed to socialise more than under the previous regime, when players were told not to drink — even at the end of a tournament.
After last autumn’s World Cup demise, Vunipola declared that the squad would have benefited from being able to go down the pub and it is a philosophy that has been shared by Jones.
“We have had a few bonding sessions. It’s important for me to know what someone else is about, what motivates them, whether that be their family or scoring tries,” Vunipola said. “You just try to help them or the team in that way. It’s something you can’t really measure or see but I definitely think it works.
“For some reason we’ve taken that tack this time and hopefully it’ll work for us in the long run. It’s too early to tell but I’m enjoying being with the boys and being in camp.
“You’re more comfortable with someone you work alongside when you know what motivates them, what interests them, or you know what you can do to help them. It works better when you have a relationship with someone rather than just rocking up and playing for England.
“If we end up winning the trophy then you can definitely take that into account. But that’s a big maybe. We’ve just got to keep working hard.”
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Vunipola feeling the love under Jones
ESPN.com – RUGBY