Billy Vunipola has admitted that he would accept a salary cut to stop himself from “burning out” in an interview with BBC Radio’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
The 20 stone England and Saracens man-mountain who suffered a knee injury in his side’s 41-13 demolition of Sale Sharks over the weekend, which will rule him out of action for four months, feels that playing less games could reduce the chances of this happening.
34-cap Vunipola has endured a horrendous run of injuries in the last year with knee and shoulder injuries causing him to miss the whole of England’s 2016 autumn campaign as well as most of England’s 2017 Six Nations title-winning campaign.
His injury nightmare also saw him miss the Lions’ tour to New Zealand and his latest injury blow comes just weeks after he’d returned to action.
And the two-times European Champions cup winner, speaking in a pre-recorded interview only a few days before his latest injury, said “something has to change”.
In the candid interview, the straight-talking star said,
“I don’t enjoy being on the surgery table twice in one year and that’s supposed to be deemed as normal.”
Emphasizing the importance of kids understanding the tough realities of injuries in the game, and of the frustration of being injured Vunipola also said,
“Kids want to play rugby because it’s fun, but they also need to know that it’s tough, and its normal to have surgery at 25 because you’re so worn down.
“I’m not complaining, I just want people to understand that having surgery is not fun, and it’s not fun being injured”.
With the issue of player welfare having come to the fore even more in the last days following talk of the season being extended, something which has drawn sharp criticism from the likes of Danny Care and George North, Vunipola goes on to describe the consequences of the increasingly brutal nature of the pro game,
“It gets to a point when you are just done, and you can’t control when your knee goes out or your shoulder comes out.
“That was the weirdest feeling that I’ve had in my life, not being able to control that and prevent it from happening”.
Admitting that something has to change, the former Wasps backrower said,
“…so something probably needs to change, or the players will just burn out.”
And in a clear sign that his health comes before his wealth, when asked if he would consider taking a cut in his salary for playing less games, Vunipola answered: “Yes“.
Expressing his opinion that playing less than the 32 games England’s key players are allowed, the Grand-slam winner, feels that less games would improve the players’ performances,
“32 games is a lot, but its doable. But do you want people to just do it, or do you want people to go out there and smash it?”.
Vunipola’s honesty is refreshing and his experiences illustrate that his suggestion of a reduction of games for England’s top stars really makes sense.
Hefin Jones, Pundit Arena