England vs France: Billy Vunipola details life in the bubble ahead of Autumn Nations Cup final [Exclusive]

Vunipola has opened up on life inside England's bubble

England Rugby have had quite the autumn. 

Following Six Nations glory just five weeks ago, Eddie Jones’ side are heavy favourites to go on and win the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham on Sunday. 

They face a young and ‘inexperienced’ France team, with many fans, pundits and former pros suggesting the visitors have ‘no chance’ of victory, firmly piling the pressure on the Red and Whites. 

Perhaps it’s lucky then, that England have been working in their own bubble for most of the autumn, isolated from all that talk and expectation.

For two months now, the squad have been locked down at the Lensbury Hotel in Teddington, where the RFU have created a COVID-secure environment that allows the players and coaches to simply get on with their jobs in splendid isolation.   

Ahead of Sunday’s cup final, Billy Vunipola has lifted the lid on life inside the camp, detailing what it’s been like during one of the strangest international series in history. 

“It’s tough being away from home but at the same time we’re all forced to spend time together so we’ve all become closer,” the number 8 told GIVEMESPORT. 

Vunipola has lifted the lid on life inside the England camp

“By accident, it’s really helped us as a group to grow, get better and learn a few things about each other.”

Despite the odd conditions, the squad’s day-to-day schedule has barely changed, with facilities at the hotel allowing players to go about their business as they would normally. 

“We get up, have breakfast – sometimes a session before – then we have a weights session and lunch,” Vunipola continued. 

Training has continued as normal inside the bubble

“Some boys go back to their room after that to sleep or watch films on Amazon Prime or Netflix. But after that, we have our main sessions in the afternoon.”

Living in a bubble has also created a very social environment and Vunipola has revealed there are a number of jokers in the squad, working hard to keep everyone’s spirits up.  

We spend a lot of time with each other. We have a pool area, we’ve done quizzes. It’s been good and really fun. 

“There are a few jokers actually. Johnny Hill is a funny character, he’s come out of his shell. 

England have a number of jokers in the squad

“Will Stuart too. These guys are confident and happy with where they are, happy to take the mick out of themselves. It’s enjoyable to be around guys like that.

“Kyle Sinckler is funny – sometimes he thinks he’s in America playing the NFL but we enjoy some of the stuff he comes out with!

“Then there’s Luke Cowan-Dickie, I’ve never seen anything like it, he’s like a 12-year-old kid with a PlayStation – I’m worried for his eyes to be honest!”

Cowan-Dickie one of the squad's big gamers

It’s not just Cowan-Dickie who’s glued to his games console. Sponsors Redbull have created a games room for the players inside the hotel, where they can play retro games like Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. 

Vunipola, though, is much more pre-occupied with establishing himself as England’s FIFA champion. 

“[The games room is] pretty high-tech. The only thing I know is FIFA and no one takes me on because I’m pretty legit. I’m like a dragon, no one challenges me!”

Vunipola claims to be the team's FIFA king

Amid all that fun though, there’s still a job to be done – and despite being locked up together. Vunipola revealed that there are still a few players who manage to turn up late to training. 

Ohh! There’s been a few late – I won’t name them – who will be in for a shock on Sunday after the game when their names get called up in our session!

Spirits are high in the England camp and that’s perhaps contributed to the success the team have had this autumn.  

England have had a brilliant autumn

But before the players can leave their COVID bubble, there’s still business to be done at Twickenham. After all, winning silverware is the whole reason the squad’s there. 

Billy Vunipola will represent England at the Autumn Nations Cup Final this Sunday against France at 2pm on Amazon Prime Video.  

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