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!”

Related items

  • Six uncapped players make England squad for Japan, New Zealand Tests Six uncapped players make England squad for Japan, New Zealand Tests

    England coach Steve Borthwick has named six uncapped players in his squad for their summer internationals against Japan and New Zealand. 

    England face Japan in Tokyo on June 21 in their first outing since the Six Nations, then take on the All Blacks on July 6 and July 13.

    Harlequins prop Fin Baxter and centre Luke Northmore, Sale pair Joe Carpenter and Tom Roebuck, Bristol's Gabriel Oghre and Northampton's Ollie Sleightholme are all included.

    Having named a 36-man squad, England will train at Twickenham on Tuesday before flying out to Japan to prepare for their opening Test.

    "The Summer Series presents a valuable opportunity for the continued development of this squad and is a demanding challenge to conclude the season," Borthwick said.

    "The National Stadium in Tokyo is an incredible venue for Test match rugby, and we will need to be at our very best against a Japanese team who will want to play fast.

    "New Zealand's home record is well documented, and we face a team who came within one point of winning a World Cup.

    "The players know that they will need to be mentally strong and tactically smart if we are to get the result we want."

    Full England squad: Fin Baxter, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Chandler Cunningham-South, Ben Curry, Tom Curry, Theo Dan, Alex Dombrandt, Ben Earl, Charlie Ewels, Jamie George (c), Joe Heyes, Maro Itoje, Joe Marler, George Martin, Gabriel Oghre, Bevan Rodd, Ethan Roots, Will Stuart, Sam Underhill, Joe Carpenter, Fraser Dingwall, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Ollie Lawrence, Alex Mitchell, Luke Northmore, Harry Randall, Tom Roebuck, Henry Slade, Ollie Sleightholme, Fin Smith, Marcus Smith, Ben Spencer, Freddie Steward.

  • All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby

    New Zealand captain Sam Cane has announced he will retire from international rugby at the end of 2024, having agreed a three-year contract with Japan Rugby League One team Tokyo Sungoliath.

    Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and has represented his country 95 times, including through the team's triumphant run at the 2015 World Cup.

    The flanker succeeded Kieran Read as captain in 2020, though his most recent international outing ended with him suffering the ignominy of becoming the first man to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final, as New Zealand were beaten by South Africa last year.

    Cane will be eligible to represent the All Blacks through the second half of 2024 after returning from an initial spell in Japan but will then head there permanently after New Zealand Rugby agreed to release him from his contract. 

    "A good opportunity came my way with Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract," Cane said. "I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family it seemed like the best decision to help set us up for our future.

    "I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege. If I'm fortunate enough to be selected for the All Blacks this year then I'll still be myself. 

    "I love that team, and if part of my role is contributing leadership-wise, I'll be happy to support the new captain as best I can to help with a speedy transition."

  • Rees-Zammit relishing Mahomes advice as former rugby star eyes spot on Chiefs roster Rees-Zammit relishing Mahomes advice as former rugby star eyes spot on Chiefs roster

    Louis Rees-Zammit has likened Patrick Mahomes to an extra coach as he looks to make an impact in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Rees-Zammit shocked rugby union fans in January when he announced he was turning his back on the sport to enter the NFL's International Player Pathway programme. 

    He was signed by two-time defending Super Bowl champions Kansas City in March and is now looking to earn a place on their roster for 2024, learning the role of running back at the Chiefs' rookie minicamp after attending another training camp alongside Mahomes. 

    Rees-Zammit has made sure to pick the brains of Mahomes, who has led the Chiefs to six straight AFC Championship games and won three Super Bowl rings since being drafted in 2017.

    "It was amazing, all the quarterbacks and receivers were there, we were running routes, we were working in the gym", Rees-Zammit said of his experience at that camp in Texas.

    "It was a great two weeks, I definitely learned a lot with Pat and the other boys."

    Asked if Mahomes was acting like an extra coach, he said: "100 per cent. 

    "I'm new to the game so I'm trying to pick everyone's brains and try and pick up the sport as quick as possible because I want to be out there playing.

    "The way I can do that is picking the brains of everyone that's currently here and trying to learn the game as quickly as possible."

    Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been impressed by Rees-Zammit's attitude, saying: "He's so diligent with everything and wants to be so good at everything. I appreciate that. 

    "I like the fact he's got shorter steps initially, that's a good thing as a running back. If you're a long strider in there you've got to really work on making it through those tight adjustments you have to make. He seems to have a nice feel."
     

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.