Steve Borthwick denounces the “atrocious” cyber harassment causing individuals to leave the sport of rugby.
Steve Borthwick has expressed disapproval of the “appalling” online hate that has infiltrated rugby and caused players like Owen Farrell to take a break from international play.
The head coach of England expressed that the spreading of online hate is unacceptable. He believes that it is cruel for people and their families to have to face such hatred and that it drives people away from the sport. He acknowledges that he does not have a solution, but he strongly believes that the individuals behind these hateful comments are not true fans of rugby.
“In just England, we have witnessed a player, our leader, and two officials resigning at the peak of their careers due to specific problems. These problems are rooted in society. The situation is rapidly evolving and unexpected, especially the events that transpired at the World Cup in that particular region. The amount of hatred directed towards certain individuals and teams was unanticipated.”
It is unclear if Farrell, who announced in November that he would be taking a break from playing for England to prioritize his and his family’s mental well-being, will play for his country again. Borthwick expressed hope that his captain would return in the future, stating, “That will be a decision for Owen to make. I am hopeful that he will come back.” He also acknowledged that Farrell is one of England’s greatest players and captains, but emphasized that there is no pressure for him to return. Ultimately, Farrell will not be participating in the Six Nations at this time.
In two weeks, Borthwick will reveal the new captain for the upcoming Six Nations tournament starting on February 2nd. He has confirmed that Courtney Lawes, who retired from international play last year, will not be making a comeback. However, Borthwick believes that Farrell has created a group of strong leaders within the team.
During the week of England’s semi-final game against South Africa, Farrell expressed his desire to lead a team meeting. Borthwick agreed and asked if any coaches should be present, but Farrell insisted on leading the meeting himself. Several players also wanted to speak during the meeting. Afterwards, Borthwick noticed a change in the team’s atmosphere, as players openly shared their thoughts, hopes, and aspirations. This was all thanks to Owen’s leadership, but it also showed the high number of leaders within the team.
Unfortunately, another member who will be departing from the team is Kevin Sinfield, the defence coach. He will continue to be a part of Borthwick’s coaching team until the summer tour to Japan and New Zealand, but his responsibilities will shift from defense to focusing on individual skills and kicking.
Felix Jones has been appointed as the new defence coach, after serving as an assistant for the Springboks during their back-to-back World Cup victories. While his previous focus was on attack, he will now shift his role to focus on counter tactics for England.
A new coach named Andrew Strawbridge, who is referred to as a consultant, will be joining the team. He previously served as a skills coach for the All Blacks during the recent World Cup, but his role with England will only last for the first four weeks of the Six Nations.
Borthwick will soon reveal his selected players for the upcoming matches and is considering recruiting from the West Country. He is particularly intrigued by Exeter’s recent success, led by experienced players like Henry Slade. Interestingly, Slade did not make it onto England’s World Cup squad, although he was mentioned along with rising talents Greg Fisilau and Imannuel Feyi-Waboso. Feyi-Waboso, who was born and raised in Wales but has Nigerian parents, may also catch the attention of the Welsh team. Additionally, Ethan Roots, a strong back-row player from New Zealand who is eligible to play for England, has caught the eye of the England coach.
Tommy Freeman, another three-quarter who did not make the cut for France, is back in sparkling form at Northampton, where he is acquainting himself with the No 13 shirt. With Joe Marchant and Henry Arundell among those choosing to take up contracts in France, Freeman’s versatility would be valuable.
Borthwick expressed his disappointment with Arundell’s choice to join Racing 92. He visited Paris and spent a few days with the team. A couple of weeks later, Henry informed Borthwick of his decision. Borthwick shared his disappointment, stating that he would have loved to see Arundell represent England. However, Arundell made it clear that he intends to return and play for England in the next World Cup.