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."

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