England leave room for improvement as Borthwick takes positives from win over Italy

By Sports Desk February 12, 2023

England boss Steve Borthwick believes his team took "a couple of steps forward" with their hard-fought win over Italy at Twickenham on Sunday.

After losing at home to Scotland in the first round of the Six Nations, England began to make amends by grinding out a 31-14 victory over the Azzurri.

It means England preserved their 100 per cent record against Italy in the championship, with this a 24th successive win in the one-sided rivalry, and it allowed England to reflect on a positive week on the training pitch.

Borthwick, who celebrated on the pitch with his young son Chase after the game, is still getting to grips with his new task, having been appointed in December to replace Eddie Jones. The players are also still learning what the former Leicester Tigers head coach wants from them.

"I think we took some steps forward and that's an important thing to recognise," Borthwick said.

"But there's plenty of areas to improve upon. I think we left some chances out there we should have taken. Our ball speed could have been a bit quicker, and we conceded a couple [of tries] that we wouldn't want to do.

"So there's always things to work upon, but ultimately it was a couple of steps forward."

Borthwick said England's ruck speed could have been quicker but spoke positively in general, as England move on to preparations for a trip to face bottom side Wales on February 25.

England had tries from Jack Willis, Ollie Chessum, Jamie George and Henry Arundell, plus a penalty try.

Rugby World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward, now working in the media, said the performance against Italy was "really workmanlike" in the first half, contending the team lost their shape after going to the interval with a 19-0 lead.

Lawrence Dallaglio, the former England captain who is also now a pundit, told ITV the performance was "miles off" what was seen on Saturday, when Ireland beat France in Dublin.

Dallaglio spoke of it being "a messy game", but he agreed there were "small steps forward" to offer cheer for England.

The current captain, Owen Farrell, took the same view, saying: "In terms of the performance, it felt better. I thought it was a step forward, as it would be a week on into our new journey.

"There's a lot to get better at, and we feel like there's loads more to go, but it's a step in the right direction.

"We're trying to look after each other, trying to build a togetherness on the pitch, fighting for each other for 80 minutes, and I think you've seen that for the past two games, and we were hopefully more on top of that this week."

Player of the match Ollie Lawrence spoke of both small steps and greater gains.

"We took a massive stride forward after last week," Lawrence said. "We're rebuilding as a team, and we're taking those small steps each week.

"The progression's getting there. We're nowhere near the finished product yet, but we're all believing in where we're going as a team. It just needs to get better and better, and we're pushing together."

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