Billy Vunipola can use the pain of 2015 to help propel England forward in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, according to defence coach John Mitchell.
England were knocked out in the pool stages in 2015 but Vunipola’s tournament ended even earlier when he suffered strained knee ligaments in England’s first match against Wales
England’s 2019 opener in Sapporo on Sunday promises to be an emotional occasion for Vunipola with Eddie Jones’ side starting their Pool A campaign against the country of his parents, Tonga.
“For him, it’s definitely personal, which is great but he can channel that in a good way as well,” said Mitchell.
“I think he is at a stage where this tournament is definitely very important to him compared to what he experienced in 2015.
“I think there is an element of motivation that’s driving him as a result of that experience and he certainly wants this experience to be a really good one.”
Vunipola has featured in all four of England’s pre-tournament warm-up matches and Mitchell is confident the No 8 can put his injury problems behind him and deliver for England on the big stage.
“He’s quietly gone about his work,” Mitchell said.
“Each week he’s got a little bit better and it’s really important to help create an environment where he can enjoy his training [and ensuring] his voice and his opinion gets heard as well.