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'Scotland by 10': Ex-England player criticises 'data-driven' Borthwick

By Liam Heagney
England head coach Steve Borthwick (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Retired out-half Toby Flood has criticised the style of play being played by England in the Guinness Six Nations, predicting they will be beaten next Saturday by Scotland by 10 points.

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The English have won their opening two matches in the championship for the first time since 2019 and they now go to Edinburgh looking to build on their respective three- and two-point victories over Italy and Wales.

The 60-cap Flood, though, doesn’t believe England will continue their February winning streak as he hasn’t been impressed by the level of their performances under Borthwick, his former Test-level teammate.

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“Steve Borthwick and his data approach has made rugby detached and stale,” Flood told InstantCasino.com. “It has become very data-driven, very ‘Moneyball’ for want of a better word. Players are taken off because of GPS data to which coaches have become slaves. There is little feel now for the game; that is why we have this detached, stale game at the moment.

“Borthwick is so data-driven. It’s all about the metrics with him. He isn’t necessarily the most empathetic charismatic human being, so he relies heavily on those data and touch points. You can see England are trying to do something different. The problem they have got is that they haven’t had any clout at the gain line.

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“Without that, you can’t have the players they have selected – Henry Slade, George Ford and Tommy Freeman – to play the piano and orchestrate attacks. International rugby is often won by winning the gain line which allows those skilful players to impress themselves on the opposition.

“England are without a bit of power. They are running good shapes and they are trying to keep the ball in hand and attack, but there just hasn’t been that cut-throat nature from an international side. England will be huge underdogs against an irritated and frustrated Scotland side.

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“They should have beaten France, it was a ridiculous decision (not to award a try to Sam Skinner). I can really sympathise with Scotland. It looked like a try. The ball was down. There was no reason to overturn that decision. It was a real shock. They deserved to beat France. They played really well and look a serious side.

“Had they beaten France they would have felt something special was on this season, so hey will want to put their season back on track. That will really pain them and they will come out really flying because of their frustration.”

England providing the opposition will only fire them up even more. “They always have a chip on their shoulder, but it gets even bigger when England come to town,” reckoned Flood.

“Scotland’s hatred of England is genuine; they want to beat us more than anyone else. There is a real enmity. When any England team plays in Scotland the mood of the country, the mood of Edinburgh changes. There is a real level of resentment.

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“The hatred for England is there for all to see. Most nations don’t like England, but the Scots in particular, with all the talk of independence over the past decade or more, there is always a heightened atmosphere. A frenzy almost.

“If you’re English, Scotland will always turn up against you. You know it is going to be hostile, you know how much they want to beat England, more than any other nation.

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“It will be quite tight. England will hang in there for a while, but I think Scotland by 10 points. 27-17. It’s going to be an uphill battle for England.”

Flood knows what not winning at Murrayfield feels like. He featured twice away to Scotland in the championship, losing in 2008 and drawing in 2010. “Murrayfield is quite a soulless stadium. It’s more often than not miserable and wet. The stadium feels weird.

“Maybe it is the running track around the side. You do feel quite distant from the crowd. I have never really enjoyed playing there because the wind comes in and swirls around. It is quite a nuanced stadium.”

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