'Every game matters': Steve Borthwick not prioritising World Cup
New England head coach Steve Borthwick has put talk of the World Cup to one side and insisted his full focus is on the upcoming Six Nations.
Borthwick was unveiled as Eddie Jones’ successor on Monday after he left Gallagher Premiership champions Leicester to sign a five-year deal with the Rugby Football Union.
The 43-year-old has little time to settle into his new role with 47 days until their Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham but will not use that tournament to experiment ahead of the World Cup in September.
While Jones placed heavy focus on the quadrennial tournament and felt the ire of supporters over England’s faltering displays in both the 2022 Six Nations and Autumn Nations Series, his replacement was adamant every game matters in music to the ears of his new employers.
He said: “Every game matters. Every single game you play for England matters. The one that’s in my mind is at the start of that Six Nations.
“We will be using every minute we have to prepare this team as well as we can for the first game of that Six Nations in 47 days’ time. Then when we’ve played that game, we’ll focus on the next one, then the one after that and the one after that. We want to just keep getting better.
“We know the World Cup is not far away, but the focus is on the start of the Six Nations.”
A terrible Autumn Nations Series – after a poor Six Nations – saw Jones sacked following England’s worst year since 2008, with only five victories masterminded during the past 12 months by the Australian.
Borthwick admitted to knowing his new crop of players are hurting but is confident they can get back on track with significance placed on improving their set-piece.
“To win Tier One Tests, you’ve got to have a quality set-piece and that’s certainly on the priority list,” he said.
“If you look at the Autumn Series, I don’t think England are ranked in the top three in any one particular facet of the game, so there are plenty of things to work on and get right.
“When I was a player, when the team was coached by Clive Woodward, in every single meeting there were posters on the wall – I was 20 to 21 – and the poster that I always referred to was one that said ‘brilliant basics’. You have to be brilliant at the basics.
“Clearly there are a large number of England players at Leicester and I have been in touch with players that I have known for a long, long time and I know how much they are hurting because they care, they really, really care, they want to do well.”
Borthwick would not be drawn on who would be his captain and more details about his coaching staff will follow in the coming days but Kevin Sinfield has followed him from Welford Road.
Former Leeds Rhinos captain Sinfield was a key figure at Leicester and will begin work as defence coach at Twickenham at the end of this week having attended the late Doddie Weir’s memorial service on Monday.
“I’m delighted Kevin has joined us, that’s the first step,” Borthwick said.
“In any of the best teams I have played in and coached, you have a team where the players work so hard for each other, it’s never perfect, they cover for each other, help each other, celebrate with each other and lift each other up when they get knocked down, they’re so tight.
“If there’s a person that embodies that ethos, it’s Kevin Sinfield. He’s the type of person you want in your environment.”
During the fortnight between Jones’ dismissal and Borthwick’s arrival, the former England assistant has spoken with his predecessor.
Borthwick has a strong relationship with Jones after they worked together at Japan and then with England, reaching the World Cup final in 2019, but the Cumbrian will be his own man in his first international head coach position.
“I’ll coach this team my way,” said former Bath and Saracens lock Borthwick, who won 57 caps for England.
“I promise you I’ll lead in a real authentic way. I love winning.
“The other thing I really love about coaching and the way I lead is I really like helping people, I really care for the people I coach.
“The players I’ve coached at Leicester in the last two years I really care about. I take a huge amount of joy in their happiness.
“If I can help people experience highs like that it brings me a lot of joy.”
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