Billy Vunipola has explained what his recent enrollment at tackle school did for his game. The England No8 was red-carded on August 19 for his shoulder-to-head collision with Ireland’s Andrew Porter in Dublin.

The disciplinary hearing verdict was a three-game ban reducible to two provided Vunipola successfully graduated from tackle school, the World Rugby coaching intervention programme aimed at rehabilitating red-carded tacklers.

Vunipola’s completion of the programme freed him to be selected for last weekend’s game versus Japan in Nice and having appeared off the bench for the closing 29 minutes of that victory, he has now been chosen as the starting No8 versus Chile in Lille on Saturday.

Appearing at the eve-of-match media briefing, he was asked to reflect on tackle school and what he took away from the intervention programme.

“When I went through it, Kev (Sinfield) is very well rehearsed in running those tackle schools. It’s probably not a good thing to say that but for me, it did feel a little bit like sucking eggs but it taught me a lot in terms of my technique and he was very good at his job.

“When you do it you have to film it. I learned a lot about using my arms and the biggest thing was lowering my height. I am such a big guy, I am so used to using my body as a mechanism to stop someone rather than technically get in the right position so it was good for me and hopefully, you won’t be seeing any of that (high tackling) anymore.

“There wasn’t much frustration there. I had to do my time for the crime I committed. It was just about getting my head down and helping the team. So once you get past that and you know you’re contributing to the team in a different way, you make peace with it.

“The worst part of not playing is having to do extra fitness! For me playing is huge. The more I can play, the better I am as a player. That’s a well-known fact for me personally, and from previous coaches. Hopefully, I can go out there and play really well but until we get there, you don’t know.”

Vunipola was the second of three England players red-carded over the course of four recent matches. Owen Farrell was red-carded the previous August week against Wales and he is back in the England team this weekend after completing his four-game ban – he wasn’t afforded the option of tackle school on this occasion as he attended last January to free himself at the time to be available for selection versus Scotland.

Tom Curry, though, has just come through tackle school following his World Cup red card versus Argentina and his three-game ban has been cut to two, freeing him for selection for the October 7 pool finale versus Samoa back in Lille.

Defence coach Sinfield also gave his verdict on the process. “We practice tackle school most days in short blocks. We are very smart in the risk and safety and how we apply it. The tackle school has a more specific nature to it. Billy was outstanding in the work he as done. Completed Tom Curry’s as well.

“As Billy said, we have done a number of them now but these guys are humans and when they are in a competition as intense as this unfortunately players are going to make mistakes. We have got to try and help them, keep educating them and working with them.

“We are seeing this at elite level but it’s grassroots where we have got to really push and help people to really understand about tackling and also understand as well that sometimes people get it wrong.”

2023-09-22T18:18:33Z dg43tfdfdgfd