Steve Borthwick’s plans for England’s Six Nations campaign well under way

By Sports Desk October 28, 2023

Steve Borthwick has made increasing depth in certain positions his priority having begun planning for the Six Nations even before the World Cup bronze medals had been presented to his England players.

After the heartbreak of falling to a late penalty in their 16-15 semi-final defeat by South Africa six days earlier, England dug deep to edge Argentina 26-23 in front of a hostile crowd at the Stade de France on Friday.

It was a sign of the team’s growing resilience that they were able to climb off the canvas to deal with motivated opponents playing to restore reputations battered by their capitulation to New Zealand.

Borthwick now has a solid platform off which to build for the Six Nations and the most pressing duty post-World Cup is to compile his review of the tournament before discussing his finding with his coaching staff in a fortnight’s time.

England’s head coach has indicated that part of the review will focus on the lack of options in some areas of the team – primarily front row and inside centre.

“I’ve already started looking forward to the Six Nations. The planning is in the early stages and already started in my mind,” Borthwick said.

“Naturally at the end of World Cups there are always some players that decide their time as a current England player will come to an end, but the age profile of the squad is strong.

“If you look at the semi-finals last week we had seven players who were 25 or under – more than any other team in the semi-finals.

“And there are a number of exciting young players that didn’t make the 33-man squad but who were part of the preparations over the summer.

“We know that the distribution positionally of those players isn’t necessarily even. We know there are some areas where we’re a bit thinner than others.

“I need to make sure we’re doing some work and finding some depth in those keys positions.

“That’s going to be part of my project over the next period of time along with my coaches.”

Theo Dan performed well against Argentina but the knockout games against Fiji and South Africa were deemed too big a stage for the rookie hooker, forcing Jamie George to start and finish both games.

The Springboks loss revealed that England do not have the scrummaging props to equal veterans Dan Cole and Joe Marler, while inside centre has long been a position of scarcity beyond Manu Tuilagi.

What the team will not lack in the Six Nations, however, is an an identity with second row Ollie Chessum revealing strong bonds have been formed over the last two months.

“We spoke about finishing this tournament and making sure England was in a better spot than it was when we came in,” Chessum said.

“We had a very up and down summer series and there was a lot of umming and aahing and we really felt we needed to find ourselves and that is exactly what this team has done.

“We have found our identity, we have found what we are about as a team. We have got a great group of players and a great group of people in this squad.

“We showed everyone that we can compete with the best up there. We fell short last weekend but we have come away with a medal.

“The boys are looking forward to a well-earned rest, but everyone has loved every minute and it is a shame the tournament has come to an end

“It is going to be weird waking up in my own bed on Monday and not in a hotel with the lads!”

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