Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
World World

Latest Feature

'Sione changed my life by playing rugby' - Tuipulotu's father on emotional Scotland journey

Sione Tuipulotu's Tongan father on how rugby changed his ways as a father and husband.

Borthwick's 'up the mountains outside Tokyo' induction with Japan

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has retained vivid memories of his unusual mountainside introduction to Japanese rugby. The current England head coach began his coaching career in 2014 after he finished playing at Saracens, taking up Eddie Jones’ offer to assist the Japanese in the lead-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup.


Eight years later, having succeeded Jones as the England boss last winter, Borthwick is now set to coach against Japan at the World Cup this Sunday night in Nice.

Ahead of that Pool D rendezvous on the French Riviera, Borthwick has reflected on his time helping the Japanese which culminated in the famed Miracle of Brighton – the ambushing of the Springboks at the finals in England.

Video Spacer

Rugbypass TV
Video Spacer
Rugbypass TV

“I learned a huge amount from my experience over there,” admitted Borthwick about his two-year coaching apprenticeship in Japan. “The overriding memories are the incredible hospitality, generosity, friendliness of the Japanese people who welcomed me and my family into Japan.

“The players worked so very hard and were so passionate about Japanese rugby. It’s an incredible place.

“One of the first camps after I moved, we went up to the mountains outside Tokyo in the summer. Every flat piece of ground was a rugby pitch and teams were going training there through the summer as it was a bit cooler up in the mountains.

“They stayed in the ski resorts there in the middle of the summer and the players at altitude worked like I had never seen players work. It was an incredible welcome for me into Japanese rugby and into the Japanese way of doing things.


“I have a very strong link; I was very privileged to live in Tokyo for a couple of years. Japan is a very special place and the Japan team is a very special team. Now, for England going into this game, we know we are going to have to defend exceptionally well.

“With the ball movement of the Japan team is exceptional and they test you in a way that most other teams don’t test you so we have prepared thoroughly for that this week. I feel the team is really well prepared. I think the team is energised and excited for going out there on Sunday night.”

While England were busy winning their opening match at the 2023 World Cup in Marseille last weekend against Argentina, Japan were taking care of business versus Chile in Toulouse.

“I thought that Japan played in the way that Japan has played over the last eight years really, the Japan way,” surmised Borthwick.


“The ball speed is fast, they move the ball, they have tremendously skilled players and added to that they have a real threat around the set-piece, scoring off the back of the lineout, breaks off the back of the lineout.

“We saw a very good team and you look at this coaching team that has been with them for eight years now really, over two World Cup cycles, and you can see that identity in the team.”


Foremost in that identity is the longevity in the back row of talisman Michael Leith. “He is a tremendous player,” Borthwick volunteered. “I was privileged to work with him in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup.

“He is a really intelligent player and he is at the very heart of everything that is good about Japanese rugby. He is a man who I have tremendous respect for. I think he is an excellent player. That doesn’t change the fact we want to make sure we outperform them on Sunday night, but he is a tremendous player.”


Join free and tell us what you really think!

Join Free
TRENDING Sorry South Africa, Handre Pollard can't save you Sorry South Africa, Pollard can't save you