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'The problem this autumn was quite a few things got magnified'

By PA
(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Rob Baxter believes it would be “fantastic” if Steve Borthwick’s work in the Gallagher Premiership underpins his expected appointment as England head coach.

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Borthwick, a former England forwards coach and ex-England captain, has transformed Leicester since joining them in 2020, masterminding a Premiership title triumph last season.

Australian Eddie Jones was sacked as England boss on Tuesday, less than nine weeks before England’s Guinness Six Nations opener against Scotland and just nine months before the World Cup starts.

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His seven-year reign came to an end following a Rugby Football Union review of the Autumn Nations Series, which produced defeats against Argentina and South Africa, plus a draw with New Zealand, and 43-year-old Cumbrian Borthwick is the clear favourite to take over.

“If it is Steve – and I don’t think any of us have been told – and it has been based on how he has worked through in the Premiership, that for me would be fantastic,” Exeter rugby director Baxter said.

“It would show there is a genuine pathway within this country, and there is a general feeling across the board that that is what we are trying to achieve.

“I have always been surprised that you have to have come from an international coaching environment to have the credentials to be able to deal with the difficulties you are going to get thrown on a day-by-day basis.

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“You may have to be a different character to deal with the spotlight that gets put on pretty much everything you say and the interviews you do and the selections you make.

“At Exeter, if I make a selection it might get ripped to pieces by 10,000 people. If you make a selection for England it might get ripped apart by a million people.

“That is the challenge, isn’t it? The challenge isn’t the day to day, it is that bigger environment.”

Reflecting on Leicester’s Premiership success last term, Baxter added: “There is a simple way of looking at this – teams that are successful tend to enjoy what they do.

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“Look at what Leicester achieved last season, and it didn’t look like the Leicester players weren’t enjoying that success and enjoying what they were doing.

“However Steve wants to coach or lead the team, you will see it in their level of performances whether they are really buying into it and really enjoying it.

“I am not going to sit here and tell you I know how Steve Borthwick coaches, because I don’t, and I can’t tell you I know anybody in the (Leicester) dressing room, because I don’t.

“But at the same time, if you had watched the Leicester guys last season you wouldn’t have thought that was a joyless experience those guys were having, would you? That is the indicator of where things are.”

Baxter inspired the Chiefs’ Heineken Champions Cup win in 2020 and two Premiership title successes, compiling an impressive CV that has previously contributed to him being linked with English rugby’s top job.

He has, though, signed a long-term contract extension with the Chiefs, alongside fellow coaches Ali Hepher, Rob Hunter and Ricky Pellow.

“Without doubt, it (England) is a challenging job,” Baxter said.

“Everyone has a certain way of doing it. Eddie had a certain way of doing it, coaches before had a certain way of doing it, and that is where you can impress your character on the team a little bit.

“It is the magnification that is the challenge, and obviously the big challenge is not making the slips. It is the slips that kill you, and it is the slips that get magnified more than the successes.

“On the whole, Eddie has been pretty successful if you go game by game. The problem this autumn was quite a few things got magnified and it all came a little bit in one go.

“The general public as a whole had a bit of unrest about how England were playing, and if you have got some unrest about how England are playing then the results don’t come, smaller bits get magnified.

“It is a tough scenario. I am surprised it (Jones’ departure) happened at this stage, just purely on timing, getting towards the second half of the season, through the Six Nations and building towards the World Cup.

“If you are not party to the workings of the inner sanctum, we are all guessing a little bit. It does feel like it has happened rather quickly.”

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