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Recently departed England coach names 4 players Borthwick needs back

By Ian Cameron
England's Joe Launchbury takes part in a training session of England's rugby team at the Latymer Sports Ground, in west London, on February 16, 2022 ahead of the Six Nations rugby union international match against Wales. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Former England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has spoken out about the players he believes Steve Borthwick’s side need back if they are to turn around the fortunes of their floundering team.

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His comments come on the back of England’s soul-destroying 53-10 loss to France, which has left the side in crisis heading to Dublin for a Six Nations Super Saturday decider with Grand Slam hopefuls Ireland.

“Where do you start processing that loss? Because so much of their game fell to pieces. The pack was poor. The kicking was poor,” said Proudfoot. “Where do they go to? They go to a side who are ruthless in attack, who wants the ball and can play through long phases.

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“Eddie [Jones] wanted to go [with] a real power game. To compete with the southern hemisphere teams, you need a power game. He tried to go superpower, that’s why Owen [Farrell] went into flyhalf.

“So you can see the selection model now, do they go a high continuity side with Smith at ten, or do they stick with Farrell at ten and go a more traditional kicking game with a power game, so I think this whole flux of where they are, depends on selection at ten.”

Proudfoot, who left the role shortly after the departure of Eddie Jones as head coach at the end of 2022, was known for his emphasis on physicality and set-piece play during his time with England, believes a lack of hard-men up front is hurting Borthwick’s side.

Speaking from his current role as a university head coach in South Africa, Proudfoot named Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes and forgotten Test lock Joe Launchbury as players whose absence has been felt in an England pack who are struggling to exert physicality.

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“Their big guns up front, they’re missing Cowan-Dickie at hooker, who adds a lot upfront. They’re missing Tom Curry and they’re missing Courtney Lawes. It’s half their pack.

“They’re probably missing a Launchbury in the second row. So they’re missing a big chunk of what their pack could be.”

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Exeter hooker Cowan-Dickie is injured and headed to Montpellier at the end of the season, while Sale Sharks loose forward Curry is recovering from a hamstring injury. Lawes, who featured against Wales earlier in the tournament, is fighting his way back to full fitness from within the squad.

Launchbury on the other hand, is currently playing in Japan; the former Wasps’ star having been considered surplus to requirements under the Eddie Jones regime.

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“You could see which side they are going to go. The English press are pushing them to Smith and a more continuity-based side – where Ireland are.

“Probably the traditionalists are wanting them to play a big maul, a big scrum, a big kicking game. You can see half the camp, the Saracens boys on this side, and the Harlequins are sitting in that camp, wanting to play a more unstructured game.”

It remains to be seen whether Borthwick’s side will be able to turn their form around against Ireland, but the return of key players could eventually provide a much-needed boost.

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