New England coach Steve Borthwick not expecting perfection in Six Nations opener
Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones this week
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Steve Borthwick is eager to unlock England’s potential but has acknowledged his team will not be perfect for their Six Nations opener with Scotland in February.
Borthwick was named as Eddie Jones’ successor on Monday and signed a five-year deal with the Rugby Football Union after a near-fortnight of speculation regarding his future.
The ex-Leicester director of rugby has little time to settle into his new role with the Six Nations a matter of weeks away and the World Cup in France due to begin in September, but after a poor 2022 where England lost six of their 12 Tests, he has promised to get Twickenham roaring again.
“There’s a lot of potential in the players we have and I want to produce a team that delivers, so I’m going to devote myself wholeheartedly to try to help this team deliver and be a team that we can all be proud of,” Borthwick insisted.
“Ultimately on that first game of the Six Nations are we going to be perfect? No. Is it going to be exactly how the team is going to play? No. It is going to be the start but what is absolutely clear is the team needs to go out there and it needs to fight.
“It needs to compete so when they walk out, I want this crowd roaring. I want that Twickenham roar. Our job is to play in a manner, fight in a manner and compete in a manner that keeps them roaring.”
While Borthwick has long been touted as an eventual replacement for Jones since turning around Leicester’s fortunes, the RFU parachuted him in earlier than expected due to a dismal past 12 months that saw painful defeats inflicted by Argentina and Scotland.
The 43-year-old is eager to be his own man but will draw on the experiences he shared with his predecessor after working with the Australian for an eight-year period across coaching positions at Japan and England.
Borthwick remembered an example of Jones’ clarity during the 2019 World Cup when he spoke at Twickenham this week.
“Eddie walked in and said ‘we’re playing New Zealand (in the semi-finals) on Saturday. All we need to do is one, two, three,’” Borthwick recalled while banging on the table three times.
“He said, ‘If we do one, two, three, we will win this weekend. We have got to get the detail right of doing one, two, three but that’s what we have to do,’ and you could see it in everybody.
“The clarity in the room presented to the coaches and the players of doing one, two, three and that clarity of plan, that was one incredible circumstance.”
Last season’s Gallagher Premiership-winning coach will attempt to bring similar clarity when he works with his players for the first time during a training camp at the start of January.
Following Borthwick from Leicester to Twickenham is former rugby league stalwart Kevin Sinfield, who has been appointed England’s defence coach to raise question marks over the future of Brett Hodgson – only hired last month for the same role.
Borthwick’s main task for the short-term will be to sort out his backroom set-up and then try to put together a Six Nations squad with the ex-Saracens lock insistent that the door is open for all having worked in the Premiership for the past three seasons.
He added: “I’m not looking in the rear view mirror too much about what was done previously. I’m concentrating on what’s going to be done and looking at every player to say there’s opportunity.
“The last two-and-a-half years has been an opportunity for me to sit in the chair of a head coach at club level and see the challenges, understand them and to get to know the other coaches.
“I think the coaching around the league is of a really high standard. It’s very, very competitive, so the players right now are going to be playing a very competitive competition.
“My job is to bring the players together as quickly as possible, to be really clear on how we’re going to play and what those top priorities are that we’re going to focus on going into that first game because that first game matters. Every game matters.”
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