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'Let's return to reality - Ireland must exercise caution'

Irish expectation soars as Andy Farrell's team sweeps all in its path, but cool heads are needed if they are to heed mistakes of the past

Borthwick ignores boos, claims growth visible in the England attack

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has defended his England team following their unimpressive 34-12 Rugby World Cup win over Japan in Nice. So lacking in imagination were they, they were vociferously booed by some of the supporters when possession was lamely kicked away into the Japanese 22 about 10 minutes into the second half.

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The scoreboard was finely balanced at that time, with England holding onto a 13-9 advantage that was cut to a single point shortly after, and it required a bizarre 56th-minute try from skipper Courtney Lawes for them to secure the momentum that eventually took to a bonus point win that left much to be desired.

Borthwick, though, wasn’t tolerating any criticism of his team in the aftermath of them going two wins from two in Pool D at the finals in France, the coach dismissing an accusation about their bluntness.

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He also stressed that the imminent return of Owen Farrell from suspension to face Chile next Saturday wasn’t a problem given the presence of George Ford at No10, the coach insisting the selection issue only highlighted the strength in depth of his squad.

“That has never been my opinion of the team,” he said. “It’s been an opinion that has been shared by other people, that is their opinion.

“I believe I have got a group of players who know what it is to perform on the big stage and you are going to see this team develop. We have still got a lot of growth in us.

“You will see players of quality start to come back. Owen Farrell is available next week. Tom Curry has only played a couple of minutes of this tournament and will become available the following week.

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“I have said this many times, I have said the team has immense quality through it. They want to perform on the biggest of stages and the boys showed that (against Japan).

“You described it a problem, I describe it as what a fantastic squad, the players,” he added in reference to Farrell now becoming available for selection following four successive selections for Ford in the No10 England shirt.

“I have the privilege to work with strength in depth across the squad and I am sure a lot of countries would look enviably, in an envious manner, so I see it as a privilege to work with these great players and we will continue to work. We play Chile next week and this is our sole focus.

“We build towards Chile next Saturday and I expect there to be another huge English contingent in the crowd. We need support, I said it during the week, said it last week as well, those supporters out there were outstanding, outstanding. They paid a lot of money to come and travel overseas to follow this team and we are very fortunate to have them.”

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Borthwick sounded chuffed by the win over Japan. “The players did tremendously well. That was a really tough Test match against a really well-coached Japanese side who clearly came with a tactical plan and play the game differently to any other team in the world plays. The players did tremendously well throughout that game to get the result.

“Ultimately at the end of the day the players find a way and that is the important thing, they find a way. In these conditions, it was challenging for both teams.

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“You see a Japan team that kicked the ball 37 times; I’m not sure when you would see a Japan team that kicks the ball 37 times and that gives you a sign of the nature of it. Fiji earlier scored one try off the box kick (versus Australia).

“It tells you a lot about what the challenge is, for the players to go there and find a way to score four tries and build cohesion through the game. We knew a bit of information was telling us that last quarter was going to be the most important quarter.

“We talked during the week that we felt his game could be tight and the last quarter is where we need to accelerate and the boys did that.

Prior to Sunday night, England had scored just eight tries in their previous seven matches – basically a try on average every 70 minutes. With four tries eventually scored against Japan, three in the closing 25 minutes. Borthwick insisted he has witnessed growth in his team’s attack.

“Having the full coaching team together for this summer has been an opportunity for us to work as hard as we can to make up ground quickly and what you are seeing is some of the strides in some of the fundamental aspects of the game and you have seen growth now in our attack and I think you are going to see more growth on that attack.

“It is always the way that you build the fundamentals through your defence, your kicking game, your set-piece and your breakdown and then the attack always takes the longest to come because it takes cohesion.

“You see teams that have had four years, some teams had eight years with the same coaching team to build that. We have had three or four months with our full coaching team in place so what we are going to do is work exceptionally hard to move forward.”

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