London - England star Billy Vunipola has revealed that he was scared when returning to action for Saracens following a three-month hiatus after breaking his arm for a third time.
The 26-year-old No 8 - who has missed 47 weeks through injury since September 2017 - told The Daily Telegraph that bitter past experience had taught him something when he turned out for Saracens against Sale last week.
"Before I was a bit naive that I could fall straight into it, whereas now I am a bit more prepared. Scared as well," said Australia-born Vunipola.
"Not of being injured, but the process of coming back is the hardest thing... It's a good thing to have that fear."
Vunipola, capped 36 times since making his Test debut in 2013, said regular game time will help the fear factor disappear as he prepares for the weekend's European Champions Cup clash with French side Lyon.
"I don't think I had it (the fear) before. I guess that came down to me being complacent. I hope it will go away," he told the broadsheet.
"That comes from the confidence of playing games week in, week out, which I haven't done consistently."
Vunipola, who is taking vitamin D tablets as blood tests revealed his levels were low, could return to the national team for their Six Nations opener with champions Ireland in Dublin on February 2.
However his true target is to be selected for the World Cup in Japan later this year.
"I would love to go," he said.
"But I would love to get three games on the trot, three 80 minutes, before I can start thinking about it because I haven't done that for so long and my body needs to try and get that."