England prop Mako Vunipola believes this autumn’s ‘mini World Cup’ will lay the foundations for the real thing next year.
Eddie Jones views November’s fixtures against Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa as a dry run for his team’s title bid at France 2023, during which they will face the Pumas and Brave Blossoms in the group stage.
Vunipola was part of the England squad that reached the final in 2019 and believes that a similarly-packed autumn schedule the previous year was instrumental to their success in Japan.
“We did this in 2018 when there was a similar situation in that we had four tough games and were in camp the whole time. It helped us in 2019 and we’re looking forward to the challenge this time,” Vunipola said.
“The Australia series win in the summer showed the way we want to grow as a team. We adapted from the first Test to the last.
“It’s up to us to keep building on those for the game against Argentina next Sunday and worry about what we can do as an England team to be the best in the world.”
England face a leadership crisis as Courtney Lawes and Owen Farrell battle the concussions that threaten their involvement against the Pumas, but Vunipola sees it as the chance to build leadership depth.
We'll play with names on our shirts for the first time in our upcoming @autumnnations fixtures 👀
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 28, 2022
“There are plenty of boys here who have been in and around the camp for a long time, but Owen and Courtney are invaluable,” the Saracens prop said.
“One because they have been captains before and the experience that brings, but more than that because of the players they are. They lead through their actions.
“But it’s an opportunity for other people to step up now. Fingers crossed they come back in next week, but it’s a tough one with concussion.”
England have confirmed that they will have players’ names on the backs of their shirts throughout the autumn in a rare move for rugby union.