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Steve Borthwick warns England must improve discipline to beat All Blacks
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Steve Borthwick warns England must improve discipline to beat All Blacks

Steve Borthwick says England’s discipline will have to improve if they want to beat the All Blacks in a two-Test series in New Zealand next month. The touring team frequently impressed with ball in hand in their 52-17 victory over Eddie Jones’s Japan but they also had Charlie Ewels shown a red card, for the second time in his England career, lost Marcus Smith to the sin-bin and conceded 17 penalties.

Ewels, the first Englishman to be sent off twice in Tests, faces a probable ban that would rule him out of the New Zealand series and necessitate a replacement being called up.

“The performance level will need to rise when we face New Zealand in two weeks’ time,” said Borthwick. “The discipline … you can’t give that number of penalties away, we know that.

“You also can’t give New Zealand the space we gave Japan but I expect our performance to go up a level. The team has had one session in England before we flew and, after getting over the jet lag, we’ve had one proper session in Japan since we arrived.

“To produce that [display] off a couple of sessions together has been very impressive from the players’ point of view but we will need to go up several levels – and I expect us to do so – when we face New Zealand.”

Borthwick would not comment on whether he thought Ewels would be suspended for his reckless clear-out on Japan’s Michael Leitch but England’s captain, Jamie George, said he had sympathy for the Bath lock, who was sent off on his last appearance for England against Ireland at Twickenham in 2022.

“The Test was played at 1,000mph and there is a constantly changing picture on front of you,” he said. “I have got nothing but sympathy for Charlie in that situation.”

Leitch and Eddie Jones also suggested there had been nothing malicious in Ewels’s 73rd-minute challenge. “He had no intent to injure me,” said Japan’s captain. “He came in with intent to clean out and luckily I got my knee out of the way.”

Marcus Smith scores a try for EnglandView image in fullscreen

Jones, who knows Ewels well, also felt it had been an unfortunate episode. “We know Charlie plays with the right spirit. It looks like he lost his balance. A guy like him doesn’t try to injure players. There was no intent.”

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Jones would not be drawn on whether he thought England might cause a surprise or two in New Zealand – “As much as I love England the only team I’m worried about is Japan” – but did concede his own side would “learn a lot” from playing “against one of the top teams”.

George, for his part, said England had enjoyed pitting their wits against their former coach. “It was always going to be an interesting challenge with the amount of players he has coached in this team,” said the Saracens hooker.

“What I enjoyed most was the element of the unknown. It was Eddie’s first game with Japan and there was a lot of talk about how they wanted to play super-fast rugby. When they play like that they are a difficult team to beat. If he is around for a beer later I am sure we will have one.”

Source: theguardian.com