Fans deserve better – Steve Borthwick wants Six Nations improvement from England

By Sports Desk January 25, 2024

Steve Borthwick feels that England supporters “deserve better” when it comes to performances and results in the Guinness Six Nations.

While England’s seven Six Nations titles put them top of the tree, the tally also gives a slightly distorted picture.

Three of those successes came during the competition’s first four seasons – and before England won the 2003 World Cup – and it has been a mere 20 per cent success-rate since then.

One title over the past six years underlines how tough England have found it and they have their work cut out again this time around, given the dominant form of Ireland and France.

“What has happened sometimes is England have been coming into the tournament and we are often talked about being favourites, and essentially England’s performance has not been anywhere near that level,” England head coach Borthwick said.

“The team knows that and the team wants to deliver better and the supporters deserve better.”

England will arrive in the competition after a third-place finish at the World Cup, an outcome that exceeded many expectations.

And the fixture schedule has been relatively kind as games against opening opponents Italy in Rome and Wales at Twickenham could see them generate early momentum.

But given it is then a Murrayfield appointment with Scotland, chasing four successive victories over England for the first time since 1972, then Ireland before a finale against France in Lyon, starting well is pretty much non-negotiable.

With World Cup captain Owen Farrell deciding to miss the Six Nations as he prioritises his and his family’s mental well-being, hooker Jamie George takes over as skipper.

Borthwick’s 36-strong squad includes seven uncapped players, headlined by 21-year-old Exeter wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, with only 17 survivors from the World Cup.

Experienced forwards Kyle Sinckler and Billy Vunipola missed out, while Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs and Mako Vunipola retired from Test rugby, but approaching half the squad have each won 30 caps or more

Borthwick added: “I think you can see from my selections that I value the importance of having experience in there with younger, less experienced players and having that sort of support around them.

“I think that’s really important on the international stage. I think it is important at any level.

“You look at the effect Jamie George has in gluing the team together. It is just awesome. And I am delighted that we have got Joe Marler and his experience around the group, Dan Cole as well, just to mention a few.

“So I think getting that balance right with the experience and with these exciting players, younger players coming in is going to be really important.

“Our intent is to hit the ground running in Rome the way we want with the intensity that we want to, which is something that England have not done in recent years.

“At times, we have not jumped into this tournament and have been caught in that first game.

“We want this to be a different mindset for England, a different way of approaching the game and the tournament.

“We are taking a different approach because we need different results to previous tournaments.”

Related items

  • England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash England wing Jess Breach wary of rapidly improving Scotland in Six Nations clash

    Jess Breach insists England enter unknown territory when they meet a rapidly improving Scotland in the Guinness Women’s Six Nations on Saturday.

    The Red Roses have not lost in the fixture since suffering an 8-5 defeat in 1998 but that record faces its sternest test yet at a sold-out Hive Stadium in Edinburgh, where a record crowd of 7,774 will be attendance.

    Scotland toppled Wales in Cardiff in round one before being edged by France a week later and, having won the WXV 2 tournament in October, there is evidence the 28 professional contracts awarded at the end of 2022 are raising standards.

    England remain favourites but wing Breach insists the element of jeopardy is good for the Red Rose and the Six Nations.

    “It is going to be a really competitive game. And we’ve probably never been in this scenario with Scotland before,” said Breach, who has won on all 35 of her caps.

    “Everyone’s really excited because it’s going to be challenging for us. Hopefully we can showcase really good rugby for the fans.

    “It’s great for the competition. You can see that every nation is getting better after being contracted.

    “Italy put up a great fight against us in the first half, so it just shows that if money is pumped into the game and players are allowed to go full time, the Six Nations gets better.”

    Demonstrating the growth of women’s rugby is that Scotland’s victory 26 years ago was staged at an independent school in Edinburgh, compared to a packed Hive Stadium in 2024.

    “It feels like we’re growing and heading in the right direction. Every nation wants big crowds,” Breach said.

    “That’s happening at the moment and heading into the 2025 World Cup we should be able to sell most stadiums out. It’s exciting and who doesn’t want to be part of women’s rugby?”

  • Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup Rob Baxter urges Exeter to have ‘belief’ against Toulouse in Champions Cup

    Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter wants his team to take the experience of winning in France into their tough Champions Cup meeting with Toulouse on Sunday.

    The Chiefs fought back to beat Bath 21-15 last week to book their spot in the quarter-finals but now have the challenge of facing five-time champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

    Exeter are underdogs heading into the clash but are familiar with the feeling of winning in France, having kicked off their Champions Cup campaign with a thrilling 19-18 victory over Toulon in December.

    Baxter knows the size of the task ahead of his team but thinks the result earlier in the season has instilled the belief to do something similar this weekend.

    Speaking at a press conference, Baxter said: “The Toulon game was something that created an element of belief of ‘we are doing the right things and heading in the right direction’ amongst the players and you need that.

    “I think it gives the players an element of belief that we can do it, go over there and play the big sides, but I also think it gives them a level of looking forward to it because, without doubt when you go and experience the atmosphere, the noise level at the end of the game was incredible for anyone who was there.

    “That’s created the excitement and nervous anticipation around the squad this week in training which is exactly what you want to be.”

    Exeter responded well to beat Bath on Saturday after they were thrashed 41-5 at the hands of Sale the week before.

    Baxter revealed the players had clear-the-air discussions prior to their win last week, but the Chiefs boss now wants his side to back up the result with another good performance.

    He added: “As a team the lads have got to do the hardest thing to do in sport and get to a really competitive level for two weeks running.

    “At the same time that’s how you win trophies, winning trophies or big games is when you put back-to-back big performances in semi-final to final or last-16 to quarter-final, that’s how things have to happen if you want to win.”

    France’s key man Antoine Dupont will be in action for Toulouse and will undoubtedly be highlighted as a key threat for Baxter’s men to deal with.

    Baxter said: “If you know the opposition nine is a particular threat in the team, the focus isn’t necessarily on the nine it’s the things that allow him to be a threat.

    “Dealing with Dupont will be very difficult if we don’t deal with the other platforms but that goes for any decent player.

    “If we can challenge them in that way, that’s how you potentially limit his opportunities. You can create an environment which is harder for him to show it, that’s how we have to approach the game.”

  • On this day in 2019: Australia end Israel Folau’s deal over discriminatory posts On this day in 2019: Australia end Israel Folau’s deal over discriminatory posts

    Rugby Australia and New South Wales Waratahs terminated Israel Folau’s contract over discriminatory social media posts on this day in 2019.

    The then 30-year-old was warned about his behaviour the year before, but avoided any disciplinary action, for making homophobic comments on his social media channels.

    Folau was reminded of his social media obligations by RA chief executive Raelene Castle and there were also threats from sponsors of the Australian national team that they would withdraw support following his posts.

    An RA statement read: “As a code we have made it clear to Israel formally and repeatedly that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action.

    “In the absence of compelling mitigating factors, it is our intention to terminate his contract.

    “Whilst Israel is entitled to his religious beliefs, the way in which he has expressed these beliefs is inconsistent with the values of the sport. We want to make it clear that he does not speak for the game with his recent social media posts.

    “Israel has failed to understand that the expectation of him as a Rugby Australia and NSW Waratahs employee is that he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality.”

    In this latest incident, a message published on Folau’s Instagram account read that “hell awaits” for “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators”.

    Folau said on Instagram: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”

    Folau featured in 73 Tests for Australia and was signed with the Waratahs for another three years in a deal that ran till 2022, but had his contract terminated early.

    The ex-Melbourne Storm, Brisbane Broncos and Catalans Dragons full-back now plays for Japan Rugby League One club Urayasu D-Rocks and represents Tonga at international level under a new rule that allows him to represent the country of his parents’ birth.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.