The hurt of England’s 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign still lingers among the squad four years on, according to Billy Vunipola.
Vunipola was part of Lancaster’s squad for the tournament until a knee injury sustained in the loss to Wales curtailed his involvement.
The failure cost Lancaster his job and, after Eddie Jones was installed as coach, England embarked on an 18-match winning run that equalled New Zealand’s world record.
And for Vunipola, who also won the Premiership and Champions Cup with Saracens in the year that followed, it is the team’s response to failure – not the disappointment itself – that will motivate England as they bid to bounce back from a fifth-place finish in last season’s Six Nations.
“[The World Cup disappointment] is still there,” he told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Land Rover. “We talk about it now, but it won’t motivate me to be better. It’ll motivate me to never, ever play like that again.
“Personally, it was a tough time to go through.
“But we now know what happened after 2015 – that 2016 year both at the club and with England. So, there’s always good things [to come] and hopefully we can kick on from last year after that fifth-place finish.
“It was tough to take but probably something that we have to learn from. We have to show that this year.
“It was a good learning curve for us. It’s kind of given us a base to push on now. Hopefully this year we can be way better.”
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) January 17, 2019
England begin their campaign on February 2 against an Ireland side who completed the Grand Slam at Twickenham in 2018.
“Ireland had a great year last year but they’ve always been good,” added Vunipola. “I think this year with us, it’s not so much being the hunter, you just want to go out there and play rugby.
“Even if we were in the position of Ireland, you just try to play your best rugby. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Hopefully we can do that and put on a performance against Ireland that will test them.
“The first game always has a massive onus on it. This is the first game but there’s an extra layer there because it’s Ireland.
“They were the Grand Slam winners last year and they’re the ones who are kind of flying the flag for Europe right now.
“Quietly, we’re confident that we can put on performances that will test teams.”
Billy Vunipola is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. @LandRoverRugby
Rugby World Cup City Guides – Fukuoka: