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Under the leadership of Borthwick, England is experiencing a positive growth for the first time in a while. -Andy Bull
Rugby union Sport

Under the leadership of Borthwick, England is experiencing a positive growth for the first time in a while. -Andy Bull

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With two minutes remaining, France is behind by one point. Thomas Ramos is preparing to take the decisive kick from the halfway line in this unpredictable championship. Just when England appeared to have secured a win, they were quickly overtaken again. A brilliant try from a lineout in France’s 22, with passes from Danny Care to Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje, and finally Tommy Freeman, seemed to have sealed the game. However, Ramos’s successful kick brought the match back to a tie.

The match was a back-and-forth affair, swayed by the night breeze. England saw a 13-point deficit turn into an eight-point lead in just moments. The game had a carefree and fatigued atmosphere, resembling one played on the last day of school. Ireland had already secured the title with a win over Scotland earlier in the day, but the players on the field in Lyon were still determined and spirited, despite having nothing to gain. They may have been thinking that it would be months until they get another opportunity to compete.

Reworded: France executed a magnificent try, with François Cros stealing a lineout from George Martin and quickly passing the ball to Gaël Fickou, who cleverly slipped through a gap left by Henry Slade. He then passed to Léo Barré, who faked out two defenders before sending the ball to Nolann Le Garrec. England was unable to make a tackle or even get a touch on the ball.

Ollie Lawrence received the ball from a lineout and took advantage of a gap in the France midfield to score for England. He also scored their second try right after half-time. England continued to play with the same energy and speed they displayed against Ireland at Twickenham the previous week, quickly moving the ball and taking advantage of gaps in the defence. Ben Earl was particularly impressive in breaking down the French midfield. Three minutes later, he assisted Marcus Smith in scoring another try.

Ben EarlView image in fullscreen

Though their performance was exceptional, the most notable aspect of their play during this period was what was absent. England has long been a team that celebrates every small triumph on the field, treating turnovers as game-changing tries and penalties as if they won the entire tournament. However, this time, the players didn’t even pause to acknowledge the efforts of Lawrence or Smith. Instead, they turned on their heels and headed back to their starting position, showing a clear determination to continue their efforts. This is another indication that Steve Borthwick’s serious demeanor is beginning to influence the team.

If only they could have maintained that level of play for the entire 80 minutes, or even for an hour of the match. Unfortunately, they were not able to do so this week. Their lineout, which had been operating smoothly and precisely during the game against the Irish, faltered. Their maul was ineffective, and they made too many mistakes while in possession of the ball. Additionally, there were too many gaps in their defense when their players rushed up aggressively, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from the opposing team. It was a risky decision to use a blitz against a team like France, who excel at exploiting small openings. Players like Fickou have the agility to easily take advantage of those opportunities and make their opponents appear foolish.

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However, there is no denying that England is in a much better state now than they were at the beginning of the tournament. It’s been a while since they have looked this promising. With players like Earl, Itoje, Martin, and Ollie Chessum (the late Irish sportswriter, Con Houlihan, believed that every team should have a redhead and England has a great one in him), their pack has the potential to become a formidable force. Lawrence, Smith, Freeman, and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who was unable to play due to a concussion, bring skill, speed, and strength to their backline. They will bounce back and be even stronger this time next year.

By the specified time, a few members of the team, specifically Manu Tuilagi and possibly Danny Care, will no longer be present. Witnessing these two players, who have consistently represented England for the past decade, execute their remaining plays together was a satisfying experience.

It was also satisfying to contemplate the idea that England has reached a point where they no longer rely solely on Lawrence and Alex Mitchell’s talent.

Source: theguardian.com