Rugby: England can still win Six Nations, says Billy Vunipola after defeat in France

Former Castle School pupil Billy Vunipola made his Six Nations debut for England in France

Former Castle School pupil Billy Vunipola made his Six Nations debut for England in France

First published in Sport

BILLY Vunipola believes England can still win the Six Nations despite their heartbreaking opening day defeat to France.

The former Castle School pupil and ex-Thornbury Broncos youngster shone on his tournament debut in Paris on Saturday, leading England’s fight back from an early 13-point deficit by setting up both tries to help them lead 24-19 with just four minutes left before Gael Fickou’s late converted try gave the hosts a 26-24 win.

"Hopefully we can now do what Wales did (in 2013) and win the Six Nations after losing the first game. We have to bounce back against Scotland,” Saracens No 8 Vunipola told The Independent.

"We have to stop being the nearly men and start winning these kind of matches, because it's heartbreaking to lose after putting in so much effort.

"I was watching those last minutes on the bench and it was squeaky-bum time, because you know what France can do.”

France opened up a 16-3 lead inside 21 minutes at the Stade de France, but Vunipola got England on the front foot and made the offload for replacement Mike Brown to score in the corner.

The 21-year-old also delivered the scoring pass for Luther Burrell’s try on 47 minutes, which gave England the lead for the first time, after charging through the French defence.

Burrell, making his England debut, was quick to deflect the praise for the try to Vunipola.

He said: “Full credit goes to Billy. I thought he was going to go the length himself. As it was, I just got on the end of a brilliant piece of play from him.”

For 14 minutes, both Vunipola brothers were on the pitch at the same time with older sibling Mako coming on for Joe Marler at prop 11 minutes into the second half before Billy was replaced by Gloucester star Ben Morgan, who grew up in Kingswood.

Former Frampton Cotterell youth player Dave Attwood also made his Six Nations debut when he came into the second row for the last 13 minutes, but England were unable to hold on for what would have been a memorable victory.

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