October 1, 2019 / 3:40 AM / 13 days ago

England reaping rewards of brutally honest group therapy: Vunipola

(Reuters) - England’s “brutally honest” group therapy sessions helped them erase painful memories of their group stage exit from the 2015 Rugby World Cup and brought them closer together as a team, number eight Billy Vunipola has said.

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup warm-up match - England v Italy - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - September 6, 2019 England's Billy Vunipola celebrates at the end of the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/Files

Hosts England finished third in Pool A behind Australia and Wales after two defeats and Vunipola said head coach Eddie Jones, who took over after the tournament, appointed psychologist Corinne Reid to help them deal with the disappointment.

“There were a few handbags thrown around but it was really good. It’s really hard but it is a thing: men don’t know how to talk about their feelings. It took us a while but we got there in the end,” Vunipola told reporters.

“We’ve talked about things we’ve never previously been able to put out there as a group and it’s brought us closer together. There is a lot more respect in that changing room for each other and it’s been really fun.

“We’re on a different level to any England side I have been involved with. This is the first team willing to go deeper than just say, ‘I think you should have hit this ruck’,” he said.

England have made a solid start to their World Cup campaign in Japan, beating Tonga 35-3 and the United States 45-7 to be in a strong position atop Pool C before clashes with Argentina on Saturday and France on Oct. 12.

Vunipola said England were reaping the benefits of the respect players have for each other.

“It’s partly about listening to each other, caring about another person’s opinion and taking it on board, rather than going back to your room and having a little moan to your mate,” he said.

“Eddie has definitely got the baggage out. It was something that was very important to us and it has probably freed us up a lot in terms of our relationships.

“Being brutally honest can hurt a few feelings. It was really good. She (Reid) gave us the platform to do it,” Vunipola said.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Tait

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