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The England changes Chris Ashton insists Steve Borthwick must make

By Liam Heagney
Jamie George leads England's celebrations last Saturday (Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Chris Ashton has outlined the changes that he believes need to happen if England are to continue their winning run in this year’s Guinness Six Nations.

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Not since 2019 have the English won both their opening matches in the tournament and having beaten Italy and Wales in recent weeks, ex-winger Ashton now feels it is time for Steve Borthwick to up the ante.

The head coach named an unchanged starting XV for the round two game against Wales following the opening round win away to Italy. That was the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup that England had named the same team for consecutive matches, but change is now needed according to Ashton.

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“George Martin has been really good for Leicester this season and he will come into the matchday squad,” said Ashton in his latest Gambling Zone rugby column. “Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence have got to come back into the squad simply because of the genetics they offer.

“They are bigger and stronger than anything that we have in the squad, and you need to make sure that you are making the most of that when they are available. We will definitely see one of those two boys back in the match day 23 or potentially starting the game.

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“Borthwick will be facing a selection headache. Does he keep the same 23 players that have given him two wins at the tournament so far or does he bring a bit of the X-factor into the squad?

“The pressure can mount in the Six Nations. If you don’t win both of your opening games, then fear can creep in about playing style and everything else. England don’t have those fears and now they can enjoy two full weeks of training before they travel to Scotland.

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“The fixtures have been favourable to England. The players and Steve Borthwick will know that the real test is coming over the next three games when they take on Scotland, Ireland and France.

“Having not beaten Scotland in three years, to go up to Murrayfield and play a Scotland team that will be disappointed with what happened against France will be a very difficult challenge.”

Reflecting on England not being as clinical as they would have liked in beating Italy by only three points and then Wales by just two points, Ashton added: “I don’t know if it’s because this group hasn’t spent quite enough time together playing yet and things aren’t gelling as quickly as we hoped they would, which is why the performances haven’t been as clinical as they could be.

“England have had five debutants. We have had some big injury losses in key positions like Ollie Lawrence, who was playing so well at Bath; Marcus Smith is out, and it would have been interesting to see how these guys would have fit into the team because both have been excellent in the Premiership this season.

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“We have lost George Martin in the second row, who was excellent at the World Cup. We haven’t got too many big ball carriers in the first XV at the minute, which is hindering the attack and doesn’t give the backs the platform they want, and when England have had opportunities they have made more handling errors than they will be happy with.

“I don’t think the performances are down to a lack of endeavour or effort; the guys are trying their best. We’re just missing this little piece that holds everything together. I thought that we would be 15 points better than Wales on the day.

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“Playing at Twickenham against a much less experienced Wales team, I really thought that we would come out on top. That didn’t happen. Wales were in the entire game and were taking risks, playing all over the pitch. Their kicking was high risk, which can either come go one way or another. I admired their endeavour.

“Both teams had their moments where they could have won the game. When Wales broke around the 55th-minute mark, Josh Adams not coming inside was the game for Wales. Had the Welsh scored then, I don’t think England would have got back into the game.”

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2 Comments
j
john 152 days ago

Borthwick needs to pick the best players available this England team is not physical enough need more players running over defences Lawrence and Freeman in centre Roebuck and waboso on wings ,hope we see George Martin and Cunningham south start

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Michael 37 minutes ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Cant deny Christie is a good defender, box kicks well at times, BUT he’s a second too slow passing from the ground. Roigard, Ratima and Hotham will be our 2027 halfbacks I believe DMAC has played reasonably well in both games, so deserves to keep his place - his two breaks at Eden Park should have resulted in tries. Reece was really to blame for the Taylor failure - he stayed too wide, if he had come in a couple of meters the pass from Taylor would have worked. The Perofeta failure was extraordinary, he is normally such a good distributor, failure to draw in Steward was remarkable, failure to look inside was a shocker. Cory Flynn as lineout coach… umm something a miss here. Not sure who is calling the lineouts, but clearly we miss Whitelock’s leadership. Having a disfunctional line out really underminded the AB attack. But let’s remind ourselves Itoje is a master, and their tactics of going for the arms of the jumper on landing and pulling over was brilliant causing Paddy and Scooter to both fumble the balls. I am a Blues supporter so I like Talea, but if you play him on the wrong wing look out. While he’s not the fastest wing, he’s elusive and very industrious always looking for work. However, he’s not the tallest player, and everyone knows his weakness (a) being turned in defence - he’s slow to turn and react and (b) never jumps for high balls is normally out jumped. Personally, I find Recce and Talea too alike - Razor needs to couple them with another complementary partner Clark and Narawa respectively. However, for me the real troubling challenge is our mid-field. I am sorry Barrett & Ioane are a poor combo - either Barrett & Proctor or ALB & Ioane - but having two mid-fielders who are poor distributors is nuts. Jordie had a forgettable game in truth he missed so many tackles, which to be fair is unlike him. But sadly both Barrett and Ioane chose to bash first and rarely distribute cleanly.

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