Vunipola hopes France win a turning point for England

Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Billy Vunipola hopes England's win over an in-form France can be a "springboard" for the team's resurgence under coach Eddie Jones.

England ended French hopes of a Grand Slam with a 23-20 victory at Twickenham on Saturday although it needed a try four minutes from time by Maro Itoje, a Saracens team-mate of Vunipola, to complete a come from behind Six Nations triumph.

But defeats by Scotland and Wales earlier in the tournament meant this win came too late to salvage England's hopes of a successful Six Nations title defence.

Vunipola, however, believes it could yet prove a catalyst for England, who endured a run of bad results before reaching the 2019 World Cup final where they were beaten by South Africa.

"When Eddie Jones first came in we had bombed out of the 2015 World Cup so you have to start from somewhere and, unfortunately, this is where we're starting from as a team this year," England back-row Vunipola told reporters.

"If you look back to 2018, we lost five on the trot. But we won that game in South Africa in the third Test when people thought we were done and we kicked on from that point. This could be a similar point," the 28-year-old added.

Saturday's success was a timely boost for England ahead of their Six Nations finale away to Ireland on March 20.

"We've talked about wanting to be the greatest team in the world and this will give us confidence, knowing that we can mix it with the best teams out there and beat them," Vunipola said.

"That really showed against France, so this can definitely be a springboard moving forward, especially next week in Ireland," the No 8 added.

France made a blistering start, with scrum-half Antoine Dupont taking just 65 seconds to score the opening try of the match.

But it did not take long for England to respond through Anthony Watson's try, with captain Owen Farrell's boot ensuring they stayed in the game until Itoje's decisive score.

"Everyone at home was probably waiting for a big score to be put on us," said Vunipola as he reflected on Dupont's try.

"But the fight and trust we had in each other as a team really showed and endured right until the end."

By his own admission Vunipola had been "rubbish" earlier in the tournament but he was one of several senior England players who upped their game against France in a match where the team's collective discipline was much improved.

"I feel like I'm getting back to a level where I'm helping the team and not taking away from the team," said Vunipola. "I'm staying on the pitch which is a good sign!"