Wednesday 17 January 2018

'He is probably right' - England star Vunipola backs Sean O'Brien's criticism of Lions coaching staff

Billy Vunipola has backed Sean O'Brien (inset)
Billy Vunipola has backed Sean O'Brien (inset)

Jack Austin

England back row Billy Vunipola has backed Sean O’Brien’s criticism of the British and Irish Lions and said that they would have beaten New Zealand 3-0 had they picked Eddie Jones, and not Warren Gatland, in charge.

Gatland and, in particular, his attack coach Rob Howley, have come under criticism from O’Brien for the way he claims the team over-trained before the first and third Tests – which they lost and drew.

O’Brien also confided that Howley was unable to get his messages across to the players on how he wanted to attack and that by the end it was left to stand-offs Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell to "drive it".

Vunipola was initially named in the Lions squad to tour New Zealand but withdrew before they departed in order to fix an ongoing shoulder injury.

But the No 8 believes that O’Brien wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true and went as far to say that Jones’ selection as coach, rather than Gatland’s, would have seen a whitewash in the Lions’ favour.

"I wasn't there on tour but I guess if he [O'Brien] is saying it and the authority he said it with, he's probably right," Vunipola told the BBC.

"For me to sit here and say the Lions would have probably won is wrong. But personally my opinion is that if Eddie Jones went as coach they would have won 3-0. He is that good.

"I don't know how he would have done it, but Eddie would have found a way. Eddie has changed our mindset at England from always accepting we can't always be too outspoken and confident and he's really helped us kick on."

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