England rugby union star Billy Vunipola has shared how his Christian faith has helped him cope with injuries, losing a World Cup and the impact of coronavirus.
In an interview with Premier Radio, he opened up about how his faith in Jesus Christ helps him deal with the highs and lows of rugby and the pressures of competing at the highest level.
Vunipola, who has more than 50 England caps, also explained that despite the current restrictions which prevent him from playing, he is at his “most content” because of his faith in God.
Asked how he felt at losing the Rugby World Cup final late last year, Vunipola said: “When we lost the final, in my head, I was asking ‘What lessons do I need to learn from this?'”
He said the answer was “to be grateful for the position that I was in” and have “contentment” from simply being on the pitch.
“That’s what I took away from it because of the foundations that Jesus has put in my heart.”
Vunipola explained that, coming from a religious family, he had been forced to go to church, but did not make a personal decision to follow Christ until he was older.
He said that “the older I’ve got and the more responsibilities, like your house, your wife, your kids – you find that the only person that can help you carry those burdens or ease those stresses in life is God”.
“I know that sounds a bit shallow but that’s kind of why I started searching for God because the more I went looking for God in Bible, in Scripture, the more peace he gave me with things in my life, especially my injuries.”
Vunipola came under fire last year for ‘Liking’ a social media post by Australian rugby league player Israel Folau, explaining the Bible’s position on a number of sins, including homosexuality.
Following the backlash, Vunipola used his own social media platform to explain the role of sin and God’s forgiveness, but his posts saw him disciplined by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
However, he says he will continue using his position of influence to share Christ with others.
He said: “I’ve definitely had more people asking me questions as to why I have such a strong faith and why I’m willing to stand on my own in certain situations, because of my faith. It’s nice to share it with other people and for them to ask questions.”
Although the England star was disciplined for expressing Christian views, the RFU took no action against international teammate James Haskell for saying that taking an orthodox view of the Bible is a ‘road map to killing people’.
The Christian Institute wrote to rugby’s national governing body, calling into question its impartiality.
Professional rugby is set to resume this weekend, but with fans banned from attending games, clubs are under increased financial strain and so players have been required to take a 25 per cent pay cut.
Speaking to CreationFest UK about the disruption to his career and the current situation, Vunipola responded that he is happiest when God is at the centre: “I’ve gone through a period where I was successful and I wasn’t happy, whereas at the moment I’m not playing rugby, we’re in a pandemic, but I’m at my most content because of God”.