England powerhouse Billy Vunipola believes adopting a more carefree attitude to the game has helped him scale heights which have seen him touted as the world’s best No8.
Vunipola has been in sparkling form during England’s three Six Nations victories which have propelled the Red Rose to within sight of a first championship title since 2011 and maiden Grand Slam in 13 years.
England head coach Eddie Jones has urged the Saracens wrecking ball to assume the status of the globe’s finest back-row forward and Vunipola insists a more relaxed mindset is paying dividends.
“I feel good. I’m happy with where I’m at,” said Vunipola, whose side face Wales in a likely Six Nations title decider at Twickenham on 12 March. “The biggest thing for me was not placing as much importance on rugby as I did before.
“I think I made too much of an issue of rugby and for me now, you play and you win or you lose but you enjoy. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve changed. Rugby is just another part of my life, it’s not my whole life.”
Jones’s faith in Vunipola’s capability was reflected in his appointment as one of three vice-captains prior to the Six Nations, while the 23-year-old is confident he strikes the right balance between added responsibility and a more happy-go-lucky persona.
“I think as a leader I try not to talk too much, I try not to tell people what to do,” added Vunipola. “I try to help the team in any way possible on the pitch rather than talk rubbish and not back it up.
“People don’t like being shouted at or you being on their back. People don’t need that in international rugby. I try not to put pressure on people because in a few years’ time I’ll be gone and nobody will remember me.”