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Can Borthwick Unlock England’s Potential - Six Nations

New England boss Steve Borthwick promises he’ll unlock England’s ‘’super strengths’’ ahead of his major challenge at the Six Nations.

Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones in December, has integrated new players into his side as he tries to turn around the fortunes of a dismal 2022. The feel-good factor generated by the famous victory over New Zealand in Japan three-and-a-half years ago seems like a distant memory, though Borthwick is determined to bring the good times back.



Unlocking Potential

Using phrases like ‘’super strengths’’ and hoping to rekindle the magic of 2003 on its 20th anniversary sounds enticing on paper, yet we must delve deeper than this if we want to know what Borthwick has planned for the future. 

The 43-year-old led the Tigers to the title in attention-grabbing fashion, utlising George Ford to his highest potential and unlocking his ‘super strengths’. His attitude to coaching is relentless - much like Jones - and you can expect England to become more physical, more urgent, and more aggressive than they’ve been in a while. 

We’re also hoping that the new boss makes the most out of the mega-watt talents of Cadan Murley and Ollie Hassel-Collins - two young guns who were never given a proper opportunity in the Jones era. 



Simplicity 

It was this lack of physicality, combined with an uncertainty in attack, that so contributed to the nation’s lack of success in 2022. A notable, and frustrating, pattern of picking players based on club traits rather than individual strengths has developed over the last decade-and-a-half, with many players looking out-of-place and unsure of their roles once the spotlight is on..

Borthwick hopes to bring this pattern to an end and impose a ‘back-to-basics’ approach. He stated: ‘’I want them to bring all of themselves, I want them to be all-in, and to do that you’ve got to bring all your strengths.’’

Five Test wins in 2022 is an awful record for a nation who reached a World Cup final just under four years ago, and we can expect the Borthwick era to begin with a clean slate. 


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Defensive Solidity

Throughout Borthwick's coaching and playing career, he has emphasized strong defending as a cornerstone of his philosophy.

His stint as Tigers boss produced some eyebrow-raising attacking displays, but let’s not forget how strong Leciester’s defence was, too. In fact, they conceded just 18 points per game when he was at the helm. 

Having Tom Curry, Will Evans, and Jack Willis as his openside flankers will be something the new boss will be thankful for, and he’ll also admire gifted defensive-centres like Henry Slade. 

Borthwick enters an England side rich with defensive talent - something he’ll need to utlise to his fullest potential if he wants to stop the rot as quickly as possible. 



Set-Piece Strength 

Borthwick is an astute coach and he’ll most likely change his tactical setup depending on the opposition. Sides like Japan, who Borthwick was once the assistant coach of, are noted for their frenetic pace, whilst the Springboks are revered for their physicality. 

There’ll most likely be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the Borthwick era, but we can expect England’s weakened scrum to be shored-up at last. It may not sound glamorous, but the new coach must make sure that England’s tepid set-piece performance against South Africa last year is never repeated under his watch.

Thankfully, Borthwick knows a thing or two about rugby set-pieces and lineout brilliance. If his tenures with Japan or Leiceister are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that set-pieces will be a huge component of his game. 

Steve Borthwick has a mega-job on his hands, yet he doesn’t need to do much to improve on 2022. As promising as the coach is, fans should expect evolution over revolution for the time being. 

A banner 2023 awaits English rugby, and let’s hope that the new coach delivers what we’re all expecting from him.

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