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Billy and his demons
GerryK (IP Logged)
09 November, 2018 18:47
A revealing article/interview with Billy about the cumulative effects of his various injuries in the Times today.
It is evident that the effects were more dramatic than most us had appreciated, and that he had relied on his parents and Mako to bring him to his senses, so that he is now intent on looking after his body better than hitherto.
Sorry cant link as the Times is behind a paywall, but if you do get a chance to read the two page interview, it is well worth the effort

Re: Billy and his demons
Highbury Saracen (IP Logged)
10 November, 2018 08:49
Quite similar to views he expresses in his book

European champions 2016 & 2017

Re: Billy and his demons
TonyTaff (IP Logged)
10 November, 2018 10:11
He needs looking after, and keeping away from his mother's cooking!

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Re: Billy and his demons
1876-Fez (IP Logged)
10 November, 2018 12:07

"Billy Vunipola: I was drinking and bragging, silly things, I’m truly sorry.

The 26-year-old has escaped the dark days after two years of injury torment, he tells John Westerby.

John Westerby

November 9 2018, 12:01am, The Times"

When England kick off against New Zealand at Twickenham tomorrow afternoon, their best hope of eventually supplanting the All Blacks as the No 1 team in the world will have left the stadium about half an hour before.

After fulfilling his pre-match obligations of glad-handing sponsors and grandees, he will be working his way across London, first on the Tube, then on the train, watching the start of the game on his phone.

Only once he has made it back to his house in St Albans, once he has reached the sanctuary of a sofa large enough to accommodate his vast frame, will Billy Vunipola kick back and allow his emotions to flow.

“I like watching rugby by myself,” he says. “That way I can say stuff that people can’t record and people can’t see what my reactions are like. I’ll be throwing stuff, pillows can end up on the TV and in the kitchen. I’m very animated when I watch.”

He made the same journey away from Twickenham by public transport last Saturday after completing his duties before the match against South Africa.

Does he get spotted on the train by onlookers wondering why he is not at the game? “Nah, I’m not Jonny Wilkinson,” he says.

No, Billy, but your proportions do make you reasonably recognisable. “They’ll just think I’m some random islander,” he says. “They might even think I’m a Kiwi supporter.”

There will be no doubting his allegiance once his front door has slammed shut back at home.

His fiancée, Simmone, will not be there. “My other half doesn’t watch rugby and she knows what I’m like, so she’s out of the house,” he says. “She doesn’t like the person I turn into when I watch rugby, she asks why I’m like that when I watch but I’m not like that when I play.

But it’s different. You can control it when you’re on the pitch. When you’re off it, you can’t.”

As the whole rugby world knows, Vunipola has spent most of the past two years away from the pitch, reconciling these different versions of himself as he recovered from a succession of injuries.

He had become such a crucial pillar in England’s revival under Eddie Jones but he has played only one and a half games for his country in the past 18 months and their fortunes have waned alarmingly in his absence.

The latest injury, a left forearm fractured playing for Saracens against Glasgow Warriors last month from which he hopes to return in early January, was a bitter blow after he had broken his other arm twice last season.

It prompted some “dark days” as he contemplated another spell on the sidelines and heard the growing concerns that he was worryingly injury-prone.

He had just been getting back into his stride, having given his finest performance of the season the previous week in a hard-fought victory away to Harlequins.

The game had been fiercely confrontational, the crowd had goaded Vunipola and he responded in kind. He relished the battle and finished the game with the broadest of grins on his face.

“That’s the feeling I’m chasing now,” he says. “Being with the team, playing against a tough team, playing in a hostile environment, coming out on top. That’s what gets me through all the dark days. There aren’t many dark days now but there will always be a few when you’re injured.

I know people have said that I’ve turned into the next Manu [Tuilagi] and that sort of thing can get to you. But I know it’s all part of the game.”

The one positive aspect to suffering such a cruel litany of injuries — there were separate layoffs after shoulder and knee surgery before his three arm fractures — is that he is becoming better at the rehabilitation process.

Much better, in fact, given that he developed a worrying tendency to deal with the anguish of his absences by refuelling in a manner that did not always help his recovery.

“With the other injuries, I didn’t look after myself as well as I could,” he says. “I started doing silly things, just normal things that kids do. Going out, not recovering, staying up late, all the stupid things that come with drinking, doing things I probably shouldn’t be doing.”

He pauses, hands clasped, eyes down. “I’m uncomfortable talking about it even now. I was bragging, [being] arrogant, things I’m truly sorry for, living a life that was opposite to what I’d grown up knowing, what I was taught by my parents.

If you burn the candle at both ends, eventually they’re going to meet if you carry on. I guess I got to that point where I needed a new candle.”

So this rehabilitation feels different. He is being more patient, looking after his body better and the results can be seen on his forearms, where the surgeries have left him with the matching stigmata of an injury-ravaged couple of years.

On the left forearm, the wound has healed neatly, in marked contrast to a more jagged version on the right.

“You can tell the difference with my scars, the way they’ve healed,” he says. “If I look after my body, my body will look after me. Yeah, I’ve looked after my body this time. Those are the lessons I’ve learnt.”

The penny forcibly dropped during the summer after a dressing down about his drinking from his family, including his older brother Mako, who is also missing the autumn internationals after getting injured in that game against Glasgow.

“I had a lecture off my mum and dad, and my brother, and I finally listened to them,” he says. “I’ve stopped drinking.”

His indulgences now tend to come after attending church on a Sunday morning. “It’s been good going back to my faith, it’s calming, it’s nice,” he says. “Especially the tea and biscuits afterwards.”

The fact that he listened to his parents this time, he thinks, is a tangible sign of progress, an indication of increasing maturity.

An essentially gentle, playful soul, far removed from the destructive figure he cuts on a rugby field, it has taken a while to realise that there is a time and place for direct confrontation.

“I remember growing up, being told off by my mum and dad,” he says. “I used to question if they truly did love me, because they always told me things I didn’t want to hear. But you grow up and realise they just wanted the best for you. That’s something I’ve learnt from and truly appreciate.

“There was one game at school in Bristol when I got red-carded for talking back to the ref. My dad made me run for 40 minutes because I’d missed 40 minutes of the game. Before I did that run he told me I was arrogant, selfish, complacent.

“I was running on my own in the dark and it was quite scary. I was hoping on my third or fourth lap around the block by our house that he’d come out and call me in but it must have been an hour and a half before he did.

And, when I finished, he told me he thought I could be a good player if I was humble and stayed humble. I’m glad now that he didn’t call me in earlier, I wouldn’t be here today without that approach.”

There are times, though, when his parents, despite their best intentions, are not so much of a force for good in the quest to keep their son’s body in peak condition. “If my mum is cooking for three of us, she’ll make enough for eight,” he says. “You have to have seconds and take some home, that’s mum’s motto.

“She does a lovely apricot chicken, which she says is healthy because of the apricot, but I see her put two tubs of double cream in there. But I never say no to mum.”

Along with his own more balanced outlook, Vunipola is being sustained during his latest layoff by words of encouragement from Jones, whose line-up against the All Blacks tomorrow is so badly depleted without the Vunipola brothers.

Jones’s hard-nosed approach has been the subject of criticism during England’s recent run of poor defeats, with a high turnover among his coaching staff and the retirement of Joe Marler adding fuel to the fire.

But Vunipola has thrived under Jones and says that there is a more caring side to the coach’s modus operandi that is seldom given due credit.

“Eddie has texted me a few times, which is a kind thing to do, he’s a busy man,” Vunipola says. “He’s got a lot on his plate, dealing with people above him, dealing with the players.

I reckon he’s got the equivalent of a Real Madrid job in rugby. Even when we’re doing great there will always be some people not happy with him.

“A little message from him means a lot to someone like me. And when we went on tour to Australia a couple of years ago he sent flowers to all the players’ partners because we were going away. That sort of thing stays with me more than anything else. People don’t hear about that side of him much.”

Jones may be missing the services of Vunipola this weekend but he still has Owen Farrell in his ranks after the fly half avoided a citing for his controversial tackle on André Esterhuizen at the end of the game against the Springboks.

With the game on a knife-edge and England clinging on to a two-point lead, Farrell’s tackle was greeted last week by a noisy celebration emanating from a sofa in St Albans.

“I loved it, I was jumping up and down when I watched that,” Vunipola says. “I thought it was a good tackle. There are some people who are trying to make news about it, the Jim Hamiltons [his former Saracens team-mate] of this world, but it was such a good hit.

“It has to be well timed, with good intentions, but I thought it was a good tackle. He [Esterhuizen] was bracing for contact to bump Faz off, but Faz got into the tackle so quickly.

I think he was trying to hurt Faz as much as Faz was trying to tackle him. Anyone who wants to argue about that, I’d happily sit down and discuss it with them. That’s what you want to see in rugby. I’d pay to see hits like that.”

He is not setting any goals for his comeback, having learnt the hard way, particularly when injury ruled him out of the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand last year, that opportunities can quickly be snatched away. “I used to use the World Cup as a motivation but I can’t do that any more,” he says.

“If I don’t make it I’ll be crying for three weeks. Much as I’d love to make that my end goal, I know what it does to you to miss out on a goal like that.

As gutted as I am not to be playing against New Zealand, I’ve accepted that I’m injured, I’m at peace with it. And the next time we play them, both physically and mentally, I’ll be ready.”

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Re: Billy and his demons
villagesarrie (IP Logged)
10 November, 2018 13:51
He's honest, he needs a bit of careful treatment...and I need his mum's recipe for apricot chicken!

Re: Billy and his demons
John Tee (IP Logged)
10 November, 2018 18:02
I fear whether we will see him at the rwc...and I fear he won't be the player he was. That will be a huge shame.

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