England must 'accelerate' as Borthwick seeks extra gear for France and Ireland battles

By Sports Desk February 25, 2023

England boss Steve Borthwick has told his players they must "accelerate" their progress after a 20-10 victory over Wales in Cardiff.

In Borthwick's third game as head coach, his team followed up victory over Italy last time out by getting the better of a Wales side who endured a disrupted build-up to their week three Six Nations challenge.

A contract dispute with the Welsh Rugby Union meant there was doubt until midweek that Saturday's game would even go ahead, amid talk of possible strike action.

Borthwick was hugely impressed by how Wales contributed so much, but it was his England who triumphed thanks to tries from Anthony Watson, Kyle Sinckler and Ollie Lawrence.

Captain Owen Farrell struggled with his kicking again, but England did enough.

They have won eight of their last 10 meetings with Wales in the Six Nations, but this result ended a run of two consecutive losses on the road against the Welsh.

England's last six victories over Wales had come by margins of six points or fewer, so by those standards this was a relative drubbing. In reality, it was nip and tuck until the final minutes.

Borthwick told BBC One he was "really proud of the team and what they did".

"That was a tough Test match. There wasn't much in it really," he said. "I think you've got to give those Welsh players such enormous credit and incredible respect.

"We've got quite a number of young men in there. There were a number of guys who played well. Now we've got to push on. There were bits in that performance that we can really push on with in this rebuilding.

"We need to accelerate. We've got two big games to finish the championship. For now, we've got to make sure we enjoy that win."

England have France at home on March 11, followed by Ireland away seven days later, taking on the teams ranked second and first in the world rankings.

It will be a lot clearer after those games where England stand, as they continue to build towards the Rugby World Cup under their new coach, who replaced the sacked Eddie Jones in December.

Farrell described England's showing as "a step forward", accepting his repeatedly wayward kicking was to blame for the visitors not pulling away.

"But it was a good test for us," he added. "We stuck in there, and we fought to the end and took control of the last 20 minutes I thought.

"There's bits starting to show, but we're laying some foundations at the minute and we want to keep building on it all."

Lawrence's try in the 75th minute put the game out of Wales' reach, with it having been on a knife edge to that point.

It meant England scored three tries away to Wales in Cardiff for just the second time in 12 Six Nations matches and for the first time since 2001.

Wales coach Warren Gatland saw good reason to be positive about his team's performance, even though they suffered a third successive loss in the championship.

Gatland said: "I can't be critical of the effort. We spoke in the changing room about being tough on ourselves, about some of the errors we made, things we can fix up and be better at.

"If we look at the mistakes we made that shifted the momentum back to England, they were at pretty critical moments.

"The message at half-time was to just stay in this arm wrestle and we'll get opportunities. The unfortunate thing is we turned the ball back over on too many occasions, dropped a couple of high balls and that was pretty frustrating, and a couple of penalties as well.

"Still for us there's work to do, but I thought there was improvement in some areas."

Related items

  • London Irish face winding-up petition over unpaid tax bill London Irish face winding-up petition over unpaid tax bill

    London Irish’s problems took a turn for the worse on Friday when HM Revenue and Customs filed winding-up petitions over an unpaid tax bill.

    Proceedings were launched on Friday when petitions against London Irish Holdings Limited and London Irish Rugby Football Ground Limited were filed at the High Court.

    The development came on the day that the Government appointed independent advisers to support rugby union chiefs as they attempt to preserve the future of the professional game after the failures of Worcester and Wasps last season.

    Irish face suspension from the Gallagher Premiership unless a takeover has been completed or they can demonstrate they have the funding needed to operate for the entirety of the 2023-24 season by 4pm on June 6.

    HMRC declined to comment on the matter but a spokesperson told the PA news agency: “We take a supportive approach to dealing with customers who have tax debts and only file winding-up petitions once we’ve exhausted all other options, in order to protect taxpayers’ money.”

    The club was given a week-long extension to prove they have a future by the Rugby Football Union on Wednesday, and were ordered to ensure the May payroll for all staff and players had been paid in full after it was confirmed that only 50 per cent had been received.

    An American consortium is in discussions to take over the Exiles, who have debts in the region of £30million, but has yet to provide proof of funds to the RFU, as well as other documentation needed for the purchase to be approved.

    The club’s plight highlights the difficulties currently being faced by clubs in the post-Covid era which have prompted Government intervention.

    The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has appointed former Rugby Football League CEO Ralph Rimmer and UK Sport’s Chris Pilling to help the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby Limited in their efforts to reshape the game’s “future strategic financial and sporting direction”.

    A DCMS statement read: “The issues at Worcester, Wasps and London Irish have laid bare the challenges facing the sport of rugby union.

    “The inability of rugby clubs to raise capital investment and the financial challenges at various levels within the game have contributed to the need for urgent work to help secure rugby union’s immediate future and advise on its future direction.”

    The Government stepped in to support rugby at elite and grassroots levels during the Covid-19 pandemic, but many clubs are still dealing with the impact.

    Sports Minister Stuart Andrew added: “This is a challenging time for rugby union and Ralph and Chris have agreed to utilise their experience to help the game develop a clear path for the future.

    “We have seen several high profile clubs and their fans left devastated in recent times and this additional independent advice will be of huge benefit to the RFU and PRL as they look to implement a new strategic direction for rugby.”

    RFU CEO Bill Sweeney welcomed further Government backing and called upon those involved in the game to set aside “self-interest” in the quest for a sustainable future.

    He said: “The restructuring of the Professional Game Agreement into a strategic partnership provides a great opportunity for all stakeholders to set aside self-interest and collaborate to reset and secure the future long-term sustainable growth of the professional game including developing the strongest possible second tier.”

  • Ollie Pope says entertainment matters as England close in on win against Ireland Ollie Pope says entertainment matters as England close in on win against Ireland

    Double centurion Ollie Pope was delighted with his “special” innings and played down concerns over England’s under-cooked middle-order after they closed in on victory against Ireland.

    Pope smashed 22 boundaries and three sixes in a sparkling knock of 205 from 208 balls and shared a 252-run partnership for the second wicket with opener Ben Duckett, who hit a superb 182 on day two at Lord’s.

    Pope’s double century was the quickest ever registered in a Test match in England but his dismissal after tea brought about an early declaration from Ben Stokes with England on 524 for four, holding a lead of 352.

    Ireland look destined to suffer an innings defeat in this one-off Test despite closing on 97 for three, meaning Harry Brook, Stokes and Jonny Bairstow would go into the Ashes opener on June 16 with minimal time at the crease.

    But Pope countered: “What we’re about as a side is entertaining so we wanted to let the crowd watch us have a whack for a few overs and then watch us with the new ball.

    “That’s what a full crowd at Lord’s probably wants to see as well so that was partially why we did that (declaration). I guess Jonny didn’t bat but he’s played a lot of county cricket.

    “The way cricket is now, there is not always that feeling of you need a load of innings before a series.

    “Jonny is in a really good place, his batting is in a really good place and you want to just be as fresh and confident as you can. Hopefully all the boys are feeling like that.”

    Pope was more than happy to get some time in the middle himself before the battle with Australia begins at Edgbaston and especially at Lords, where he had only passed 50 once in seven previous Test innings.

    Reflecting on going on the honours board, he admitted: “It’s very special.

    “Lord’s is not somewhere I’ve done that well over the years, I think I got 70-odd against South Africa but other than that I’ve hardly scored a run here.

    “So, it’s nice to get that one off my back, especially leading into a big summer.

    “There’s no denying that Australia’s attack is stronger than Ireland’s but scoring runs at Lord’s and scoring runs in Test matches is a habit, a good habit to get into early.”

    After Pope, who had struggled during the first hour, hit his fourth Test hundred, England debutant Josh Tongue stole the show in the evening session.

    The Worcestershire seamer impressed in the enforcer role on day one and clocked 91mph, but had Peter Moor lbw and bounced out Paul Stirling on his way to three for 27 from a fine eight-over spell.

    “For him to dive into that role he did this evening…the way he did that was perfect,” Pope admitted.

    “He has been awesome this week, he looks the part and has been great around the changing room too. I don’t think you would know it’s his debut.”

    Meanwhile, Duckett’s extraordinary new lease of life in Test cricket shows no signs of slowing.

    In his first Test innings on home soil, the Nottinghamshire batter breezed to 150 off the same number of balls to snatch the record for quickest Test 150 at Lord’s off Australian great Don Bradman before his fun ended on 182, which came at a strike rate of 102.84.

    Duckett, recalled this winter six years after his last appearance, told BBC Today at the Test: “It’s been a crazy six months and to start the summer like that and make a century at Lord’s was something I dreamt of as a kid.

    “Even 12 months ago I thought I’d never play Test cricket for England again.

    “With other captains I probably wouldn’t have, but Stokesy and Baz (Brendon McCullum) wanted me to open the batting and play the way I’ve played throughout my career and a lot of thanks to them.”

    Ireland face an uphill battle to take only their seventh Test into a fourth day and batting coach Gary Wilson was unsure if opener James McCollum would bat again after he twisted his ankle and retired hurt on Friday evening.

    Wilson said: “He has gone to hospital for scans and we don’t have a further update.

    “I went to see him in the ambulance and he was very keen to go on, felt like he was in good touch, so he’s very disappointed, but he might be back tomorrow. We don’t know yet.”

  • Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett move England close to big win over Ireland at Lord’s Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett move England close to big win over Ireland at Lord’s

    England are on the verge of a first victory of the summer after record-breaking innings by Ollie Pope and Ben Duckett almost saw Ireland defeated inside two days at Lord’s.

    Duckett did the early damage and showed exactly why he is perfect for Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s aggressive ‘Bazball’ style with a century on his maiden Test appearance on home soil.

    The Nottinghamshire opener made it to 150 off the same number of balls to snatch the record for quickest Test 150 at Lord’s off Australian great Don Bradman before his fun was ended on 182 that came at a strike rate of 102.84.

    Duckett had shared a 252-run partnership for the second wicket with Pope, who was not at his fluent best initially but freed up after reaching his fourth hundred and subsequently registered the quickest Test double-century in England.

    When Pope was stumped after crashing 22 fours and three maximums in his 205 innings from 208 balls, Stokes declared on 524 for four with Ireland needing 352 to make England bat again but more pressingly required to bat through the evening session to force a third day of this one-off Test.

    Three wickets for debutant Josh Tongue in a terrific spell threatened the possibility England could wrap up victory inside two days but Harry Tector stood firm to guide Ireland to the close on 97 for three, although opener James McCollum is unlikely to bat again after he retired hurt.

    Stokes’ bold declaration was in keeping with England’s desire to go against convention but it does mean himself, Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow are all short of time at the crease ahead of the Ashes opener on June 16.

    Pat Cummins and co will not be as generous at Edgbaston as red-ball novices Ireland have been this week in only their seventh Test, but the emergence of Tongue makes this a worthwhile exercise.

    The debutant pinned Peter Moor in front for 11 and bounced out Paul Stirling for 15 during an excellent eight-over spell of three for 27.

    Duckett wasted little time moving England ahead of Ireland’s 172 total at the start of day two with a four off his first ball before he raced onto 99 with a cover drive and flick off his pads down to the fine leg boundary in a 35th over that also brought up the hundred partnership between Pope.

    The next over produced further milestones with the Nottinghamshire opener able to celebrate a second century for England after he nudged into the leg side for a single to short midwicket.

    Duckett held his arms aloft after he made it to a hundred from 106 deliveries following a chanceless innings in his 10th Test, but first on home soil.

    Pope had been more frenetic during the first hour, with the occasional play-and-miss married with the odd boundary down to third man that did not always look completely controlled.

    England’s number three also survived a review for an lbw against debutant Fionn Hand before lunch to walk off three short of a century, but the session belonged to Duckett, who swept his way into the history books.

    Two off Hand ensured Duckett reached 150 off the same amount of balls to set a new quickest 150 in Test cricket at Lord’s, beating Bradman’s previous record off 163 deliveries during the 1930 Ashes.

    Duckett picked up where he left off after lunch and crunched 14 from one Andy McBrine over with a slog sweep for the first maximum of the Test and a reverse sweep for four.

    Another drive to the boundary saw Duckett move on to 182 and bring up the 250-run partnership but he edged onto his stumps later in the over off Graham Hume.

    Pope now picked up the baton. He reached three figures for a fourth time in Test cricket with a single in the second over of the afternoon session – and it settled him down.

    A pull and cut away to the boundary was followed by a reverse paddle scoop before Pope hit the first maximums straight over McBrine’s head.

    Another drive for four saw Pope celebrate his 150 off 166 balls during a hundred partnership with Joe Root, who made 56 and went beyond 11,000 Test runs but struggled with his timing in a scratchy innings of 59 deliveries.

    Pope hit exactly 100 runs in the afternoon session to walk off three short of 200, but he got there when he skipped down the wicket to hit McBrine for six after tea before Stokes’ trademark bold declaration almost forced an early finish.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.