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England number eight Billy Vunipola can become the best player in his position in the world, coach Eddie Jones has claimed after the back-row forward produced a man-of-the-match display in victory over Scotland at Murrayfield. The Saracens man made 19 carries and gained 51 meters during an inspired performance which underlined England's 15-9 win which saw them retain the Calcutta Cup.
Tries from George Kruis and Jack Nowell in either half saw Jones start his tenure as England coach with a win, but in a game lacking in attacking intent it was the defensive skills of the Australian's side which came to the fore. Vunipola was at the centre of that success and after the game Jones paid tribute to his performance.
"I have read all the articles about him being too slow to play number eight so he's doing a pretty good job as a slow number eight," he said. "I thought he was outstanding, his carrying and defence work. He can be the best number eight in the world, I have no doubt about that.
"He is a big guy with footwork. He hasn't used footwork much but he is starting to us his footwork. He is a great reader of the game, he knows when to attack off nine and we're trying to get him a bit wider off ten. He has a good feel for the game and he is still a young boy. He's 22 years old so imagine when he does get credit rating how good he is going to be."
The 56-year-old added: "I think the attitude of the team we wanted to go out and playing positive rugby. We were off our game and it was never going to be a free-flowing game. It became a set-piece defensive games and out second half performance was admirable. It was always going to be difficult and we had to do the basics of the game right. You can't move the ball when it is 50-50 at the breakdown. We have some work to do under the breakdown."
Scotland coach Vern Cotter was left frustrated after his side were unable to build on the momentum they created during an encouraging World Cup campaign. Greig Laidlaw kicked three penalties but failure to carve out regular attacking opportunities contributed to their downfall.
"We created enough opportunities," Cotter said. "We just weren't accurate enough. One positive is that we got a lot of things right very quickly. As a team we can get so much better. In the first half if we had gone in front the pressure may have gone the other way.
"We know that is just the way it is and we had enough opportunities in the second half. We'll take it on the chin and won't take anything way from England but we certainly need to get better in certain phases. England were big and physical and they held the ball well. There is a lot to take out of the game. First we must look at our performance."