Rugby Rugby World Cup 2019: Billy Vunipola ‘adapting his game’ after opponents worked him out, says John Mitchell

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Billy Vunipola, by his own admission, is yet to deliver his best at the Rugby World Cup, but the England forward is undergoing something of a reassessment after being worked out by his opponents, according to coach John Mitchell.

The No 8 looks set to win his battle against an ankle injury to start this Saturday’s quarter-final against Australia, in what will be a large step up in intensity compared to anything that England have faced so far in Japan.

It is fair to say that Vunipola has not looked his normal self at the World Cup so far, with the 26-year-old smashed by Tongan flanker Zane Kapeli in their opening match in a rarely-seen challenge where he came off second-best. He admitted earlier in the tournament that he does not yet feel like he is running at 100 per cent, and even conceded that by reading too many messages telling him he should be careful not to get injured, he was not flying into collisions as he normally would.

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But with Vunipola safely coming through training on Wednesday, defence coach Mitchell revealed that the back-row forward is working on ways to adapt his game that his opponents are not expecting, in order to prove he is not a one-trick pony.

“He’s going well,” said Mitchell. “Like any player, he wants to play better. He’s having to make a couple of little adjustments in his game, because players obviously start to read you in terms of what you do. That’s really good awareness from him, to make those adjustments.

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