England pick ideal successor to Jones in Borthwick
LONDON (AP) — Steve Borthwick was England rugby’s first choice to replace Eddie Jones as the national coach.
Borthwick was expected to take over from Jones next year after the Rugby World Cup in France but the promotion was accelerated when Jones was fired this month, and confirmed on Monday.
“Planning for the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup begins today,” Borthwick said in a statement. “I will give it everything.”
England is counting on it.
He has only 47 days before England’s Six Nations home opener against Scotland on Feb. 4. He has less than nine months before the team’s World Cup opener against Argentina in Marseille.
But like Wales did in hiring Warren Gatland to replace the sacked Wayne Pivac this month, England believes it got its ideal man to overcome the time constraints and rescue a flailing side that won only five of 12 tests this year.
Borthwick’s priority fix are the set-pieces.
“To win tier one tests, you’ve got to have a quality set-piece and that’s certainly on the priority list,” he said.
“If you look at the autumn series (lost to Argentina, South Africa; drew with New Zealand; beat Japan), I don’t think England are ranked in the top three in any one particular facet of the game.
“When I was a player, when the team was coached by Clive Woodward, in every single meeting there were posters on the wall and the poster that I always referred to was one that said ‘Brilliant basics.’ You have to be brilliant at the basics.”
Even as a player, Borthwick was known for his attention to detail, for studying opponent’s lineouts and patterns, and was made captain in the last two years of his England career under Martin Johnson.
He was still a standout club player in the second row, and a fledgling coach of under-18s, when Jones swayed him in 2012 to join him as an assistant with the Japan side.
At the 2015 World Cup, Japan upset South Africa and beat Samoa and the United States.
Borthwick followed Jones into the England setup and was the forwards coach for five seasons, helping them reach the 2019 World Cup final. He’s been in touch with Jones since his old boss was sacked.
He left in 2020 for Leicester, and a team that was scraping the bottom of the Premiership was turned into a top-half side in 2021 and the champion this year. He leaves the Tigers fifth in the standings and unbeaten in the European Cup.
Borthwick brought with him his right hand man at Leicester, Kevin Sinfield. The rugby league great will overlook the England defense. Borthwick was still getting the rest of his staff together.
The English Rugby Football Union has extended 43-year-old Borthwick the confidence to mould the team in his image by giving him the next World Cup cycle, too, in a five-year contract.
“I’ll coach this team my way,” he said. “I promise you I’ll lead in a real authentic way. I love winning.”
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