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Borthwick's vision is confirmed as England begins to have faith in the process.
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Borthwick’s vision is confirmed as England begins to have faith in the process.


Wickenham rarely experiences intense excitement nowadays, so when it does, one can’t help but speculate if the ground might crumble underfoot. The last instance of this was in the autumn of 2022, when Eddie Jones was nearing the end of his tenure as coach. In a thrilling game against New Zealand, England managed to equalize but ultimately ended in a draw after Marcus Smith deliberately kicked the ball out to end the match. However, during Saturday night’s game against Ireland, there was no hint of disappointment in Smith’s final kick, indicating progress and improvement for the team.

There was a significant amount of relief. It was clear that England truly required it. Their fans were undoubtedly in need of it, but more importantly, their players, as highlighted by Steve Borthwick, were seeking reassurance of their development. The coach emphasizes the importance of his players having faith in his strategies and, while they have confidence in Borthwick, a decisive win had become essential. This could be seen in the players’ reactions after the match – the younger ones ecstatic, and the veterans experiencing a cathartic sense of relief.

After losing to Scotland, the team withdrew and focused on avoiding a similar situation. Borthwick diligently worked for two weeks to prevent a repeat. It was unexpected for him to mention the players feeling the weight of the jersey, as it could add more pressure, but it ultimately helped in their victory against Ireland.

The trust of the players is crucial, as mentioned by him. It is essential because without it, it becomes very challenging. From 2023, we focused on building relationships and gaining their trust. For players, seeing concrete results is important. I have been demonstrating their progress and providing evidence, but it can be difficult to see it when everything is under close observation.

How significant is this win in the history of matches at Twickenham? The chaotic draw in 2022 happened so quickly that there was a sense of disbelief. Before that, there was a one-point triumph over South Africa in 2021, but that also came as a pleasant surprise. The Six Nations victory over France earlier that same year was played in an empty stadium. Both were impressive, but there are lessons to be learned from each, as England lost their next matches on both occasions – a home game against Scotland and an away game against Ireland. However, neither of those victories feels as momentous as this one, and it’s difficult to recall many other matches since the 2012 win against the All Blacks.

If there is anything to be frustrated about, it is that England must be disregarded in order to produce a performance like the one on Saturday. This was also the case under Jones’ leadership, where England would rise up and give their all when deemed hopeless. Based on their World Cup run and the game on Saturday, the same can be said under Borthwick’s guidance. “It intensifies our determination,” said Jamie George last week.

This time around, England was able to assert themselves against a formidable opponent. Leading up to the match on Saturday, it was reported that England was training at an accelerated pace. The plan was to believe in playing with speed, to shake off mistakes, and keep up the intensity. The success of this plan is a testament to the players’ abilities and the astute coaching of Borthwick and his team. It also indicates that the players are gaining the trust and confidence that Borthwick emphasizes. While there were doubts within the team during the World Cup warm-up matches, the performance against Ireland showed a determination to stick to the game plan.

Ben Earl on the charge during England’s Six Nations match against Ireland.View image in fullscreen

Can you explain how else they were successful? Borthwick was aided by the presence of George Martin, who has a promising future in England as an enforcer, and the skills of Alex Mitchell. Additionally, Ben Earl, who Borthwick considers to be the most talented back-row player of the current championship, was available to him.

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George Furbank is a true representation of this England team in many ways. Borthwick has mentioned a specific offload that Furbank made at Murrayfield, which unfortunately did not go as planned. However, Borthwick emphasizes that it was the right decision to make despite losing possession. While this may be an anecdotal story, Furbank is a player who displays moments of brilliance with the ball, but also makes mistakes. It comes as a surprise that Borthwick continues to support him, especially since he coached Freddie Steward at Leicester. This decision reflects Borthwick’s determination to focus on the positive aspects, which is not typically associated with him.

The task at hand is for England to replicate their strong performance at Twickenham against a formidable France team who dominated over Wales in Cardiff this past Sunday. There is a possibility of winning the championship and there is an anticipation for the team to deliver a similar showing as they did against Ireland. “I will continue to motivate the players to approach the next match with determination,” stated Borthwick. “By creating a supportive atmosphere and working together to enhance our skills, I believe the team will make progress.”

Coming out swinging when backs are to the wall is one thing but if Borthwick can bottle whatever it is that brings England to life when they are given little chance then you suspect he is on to something.

Source: theguardian.com