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England's new defence coach says team must be fuelled by more than hate

By PA
Mako Vunipola. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Kevin Sinfield accepts that England are the most unpopular team in the Six Nations but he insists pride rather than hostility must drive their revival.

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Even when playing rugby league, Sinfield was an avid fan of the tournament but it was not until spending time with former Scotland players as part of his fundraising for motor neurone disease that he really understood the target on England’s backs.

Scotland great Doddie Weir was among those present at Murrayfield in November to see Sinfield launch his most recent charity endurance challenge before losing his battle with MND two weeks later.

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England open their Six Nations against the Scots at Twickenham on February 4 and their defence coach believes that if they are to overturn the malaise that set in during the latter stages of the Eddie Jones era, they must find a higher purpose than feeding off “hate”.

“I spent some time with some Scottish internationals over the last couple years through some tragic circumstances and it’s not lost on me how much there’s a dislike for us,” Sinfield said.

“I understand that. And I understand that that’s quite common across the other nations as well.

“That’s a powerful tool defensively but also right the across the board. But if we think we’re going to get a team ready to play because the opposition don’t like us… it needs to be much deeper and much more powerful than that.

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“We want to win games because we want to represent our country the right way. We want the country to get behind us, we want to see Twickenham full of white shirts.

“If we’re going to get more kids playing our sport then it’s got to be much deeper than building a gameplan around teams hating us.

“I want the team to really really enjoy putting that white shirt on and really enjoying tearing up trees for each other and doing everything they can to ensure we send a load of people home happy after that first game.”

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England will be led into their bid to defeat Scotland at Twickenham for the first time since 2017 by Owen Farrell, with Courtney Lawes and Ellis Genge acting as his deputies.

Sinfield met Farrell for dinner two weeks ago and, while the majority of their discussion focused around their visions for the team, the subject of the Saracens playmaker’s recent dangerous tackle on Jack Clement of Gloucester inevitably came up.

Farrell will complete a reduced three-match ban in time to face Scotland and knows he must refine a technique that has caused problems in the past.

“I came away absolutely knowing that Owen is in a really good place,” the former Leeds Rhinos star said.

“He understands the tackle height stuff. He’s been smacked over the head with that – if you pardon the pun – enough now.

“It’s quite refreshing that we’ve got a fly-half who wants to put his body on the line and wants to be physical.

“It’s a great message for our younger players around the country – he wants to tackle. The challenge for us – and across the squad – is to ensure that we don’t cross that line.”

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