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The Kevin Sinfield verdict on his England defence shipping 50-plus

By PA
(Photo by Alex Davidson/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

New England defence coach Kevin Sinfield coach has spoken to the media for the first time since last Saturday’s record Guinness Six Nations loss to France. Steve Borthwick’s squad leaked seven tries in round four of the championship and must regroup quickly because Ireland in Dublin next Saturday will be England’s toughest assignment yet in 2023.

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“It’s been tough. Any time you get 50 stuck on your chin it’s not nice,” said Sinfield, who was appointed Borthwick’s England number two after Eddie Jones was sacked in December. “You probably get a fair bit less sleep because you are mulling things over trying to understand why, but we have worked incredibly hard over the last couple of days to try and fix some of the areas we fell short in – and there are quite a few.

“The players were hit pretty hard as you can expect from a result like that, but we have stuck together and we fight through it as a team, squad and staff to ensure that we continue to move forward. This was never going to be a straight line and it was never going to be straightforward.

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“When you ship 50 points and you are in charge of the defence, it doesn’t sit well with you. I certainly don’t put this at the players’ door. We are all in this together and we have got to work our way through it. For whatever reason, we didn’t turn up on Saturday. It’s our job to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“It shouldn’t have happened on Saturday but what’s done is done, we learn the lessons, pick the bones out of it and ensure we are better this weekend.”

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England’s hopes of gatecrashing Ireland’s Grand Slam party in Dublin were hit on Tuesday by the loss of Ollie Chessum to an ankle problem. Chessum sustained the injury in training and while no timeframe was given for his return, he will definitely sit out the climax to the championship on St Patrick’s weekend.

The 22-year-old nine-cap international has overshadowed more established second row partner Maro Itoje throughout the tournament on account of his work rate and impact across the field. But his breakthrough Six Nations is over in a significant setback for England, who will now choose between David Ribbans, Nick Isiekwe, George Martin and Jonny Hill for his replacement at the Aviva Stadium.

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“Ollie will be a huge loss. He has been great for us. We have played him in the second row but he covers back row for us as well,” said Sinfield. Chessum is the second starter from Saturday’s record-breaking 53-10 defeat by France to miss out against the world’s number-one ranked team after centre Ollie Lawrence was struck down by hamstring damage.

Manu Tuilagi has completed a three-week suspension for dangerous play and offers a direct replacement for the hard-running Lawrence, but Borthwick may instead overhaul the midfield completely. For the first time in this Six Nations, Borthwick will approach Thursday’s team announcement with three fly-halves in contention after Marcus Smith, Owen Farrell and George Ford were retained in a reduced 30-man squad.

The challenge facing Borthwick is deciding whether to give the starting XV who collapsed before France – minus the injured Chessum and Lawrence – another chance or to make changes.

“It’s about getting the balance right between giving those guys another shot but also making sure that the selection is right for the opposition we are playing against, which is what we have tried to do during the campaign,” Sinfield said.

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“We have tried to pick a team that suits both how we want to play but also the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. We will stay along that same theme but the balance between the two will be crucial for us this weekend.”

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Comments

4 Comments
P
Piat 463 days ago

England played the quality of rugby required for about 5 minutes against France when they scored their solitary try. Now need to play like that for the other 75 minutes.

s
steve 466 days ago

All the forward back had no energy they looked laboured and played with no pride. They should be embarrassed to wear the red rose.

R
Robert 466 days ago

This notion you can tailor your side to the opposition is naive in the extreme. From the position England are we need a team operating to an understood and effective match-day strategy. Within which, consistent selection needs to be paramount. To do otherwise seems to indicate the coaches have no idea on the style of play they want, or the best players. Eddie Jones all over again. It's pathetic.

A
Arjayem 466 days ago

It will be less embarrassing all round if we just concede the game

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