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Evans appointment is a masterstroke by Borthwick - Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
(Photo by Getty Images)

It has come out of leftfield but the appointment of Nick Evans as England attack coach is an absolute masterstroke by Steve Borthwick.


The one criticism of the former Leicester boss in his short career as a head honcho would be that there can sometimes be too much rigidity in his side’s game plan so to get the man responsible for one of the Premiership’s most fluid attacks on board is an inspired choice.

Only time will tell whether Borthwick can get the defence of Kevin Sinfield, the set piece strength we saw from Tigers during his tenure and the speed and style we’re used to seeing from an Evans attack to marry up but it has the potential to be the perfect blend.

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The former All Black fly half has been with Harlequins for almost 15 years as a player and coach so he knows English rugby inside out but has a different outlook on the game to a lot of other attack coaches.

Evans Harlequins
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

I don’t think we’ll simply see England playing like Quins all of a sudden because a bit more pragmatism is required at international level and the game plan should be created to fit around the players but fans can expect an injection of pace.

England’s attack has been muddled and ponderous for the past couple of years and Evans’ philosophy is centred around the delivery of Lightning Quick Ball (LQB) to create holes and space out wide.


That will be allied with a clearly defined kicking strategy as well and Evans’ influence in that area could be key. Leicester kicked more than anyone else in the Premiership under Borthwick and you have to think it’ll be similar with England but there was too much aimless kicking at times under Eddie Jones.

There’s a lot of talk about being comfortable in chaos in rugby nowadays and Leicester’s style of play was far from chaotic so if Borthwick can combine the structures he’s renowned for with the unstructured attack that has made Evans successful at Quins, it could be a winning formula.

We know how intense Borthwick and Sinfield are as well, a quality that will surely stand England in good stead, so a different type of personality on the coaching staff should also be a positive.

I know Snapper well and I don’t think you’ll find anyone in the game with a bad word to say about him. He’s as hard-working as any coach out there but is a lot more laid back and that approach often gets the best out of players.


He wouldn’t have taken the job if he was just being told to carry out someone else’s game plan so he’ll want to put his own stamp on the team and that will inevitably include having a say when it comes to selection.

Smith England Evans verdict
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Marcus Smith has started 16 of 17 Tests at fly half since he made his debut but his ankle injury and dip in form prior to that had everyone thinking that Owen Farrell was a shoo-in to start the Six Nations as England’s number 10.

Smith hasn’t played since mid-November so it’s still tough to see him being fit and firing enough to start in the Calcutta Cup in four weeks’ time but his relationship with Evans at club level will have people wondering now whether Borthwick does see him as first choice.

The decision may be taken out of Borthwick’s hands to a certain extent because, in addition to Smith’s injury, there could be a ban coming to rule Farrell out of the start of the tournament following his tackle on Jack Clement.

For what it’s worth, I think he will be cited for the shoulder-led high tackle in Saracens’ win over Gloucester and he shouldn’t have been on the pitch to slot the winning drop goal but I think it’s more of a low-end offence than a mid-range one.

Farrell has been in some of the best form of his life this season and his attacking game has gone to another level so it’d be great to see him benefiting from the influence of Evans.

Scrum half selection is equally interesting because the Leicester duo of Ben Youngs and Jack van Poortvliet were probably the incumbents under Jones and most would’ve expected that to continue to be the case under Borthwick.

However, Danny Care is so influential in Harlequins’ attack that maybe it opens the door for him yet again. He’s just turned 36 and looked out of the running under Jones but you never know now.

I’m sure he’s been messaging his club coach and former halfback partner and having a word in his ear to remind him he’s still available at international level and there are a whole host of players who will feel there’s a clean slate and they’re in with a shot.

Alex Mitchell has been tearing up trees for Northampton and only earned one England cap thus far so he’ll be feeling like this could be his time and there’ll be a lot more players eagerly awaiting next week’s squad selection than there was before.

That squad announcement will be a fascinating first insight into what we can expect in terms of England’s style of play in the Six Nations and the addition of Evans to the coaching staff has certainly thrown a cat among the pigeons.

England’s new attack coach is only in place until the end of the Six Nations initially and there are rumours that someone else could be lined up to take the job ahead of the World Cup but you have to think that Evans will keep the job if England score a bucket load of tries and their attack goes well.

International rugby and the Six Nations is an unforgiving arena but the only way is up really for Evans in terms of England’s attack and he might just provide the yin to Borthwick’s yang and prove to be an inspired appointment.


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