Marcus Smith is confident that England will step up to the challenge of facing Ireland in Dublin on Saturday despite a dismal performance against France.
A key element to this is the characters within the squad who Smith believes will be the key to unlocking the team's potential.
He said: “We didn’t build up in the week to lose like that, so we’ll all look at our individual performances and, more importantly, we’ll look at our performances as a team because with where we want to go in the next six months and in the few years ahead, that wasn’t good enough.
“We’ll work as hard as we can this week to be better but it’s a good indicator of where we are on this journey and we’ve got to look at our performance as a team. You want to test yourselves against the best – and we’re going to the best in the world next [this] week – then we’re going to have to step up a gear. With the characters in our squad, we can do that.”
In order for the team to make improvements in the short turnaround before they face the world's number one ranked side, the fly-half insisted that the only option is for England to move on from the scoreline against France and instead focus on their performance and improvements that can be made to it.
“The key thing is to not look at the result. We know the result, the result is done, and we just need to look at each moment in the game and see what we could have been 10 per cent better at. There’s going to be a lot of talk this week about the result, this that and the other, but we’ve got to look at the performance,” Smith said sincerely.
A key emphasis has been on the urgency that is required to turn around the fate of the team. On the 9th of September, England will face Argentina in their opening game of the World cup in Marseille. The limited time available before this date hasn't been underestimated by the squad, and Steve Borthwick has made it clear to them what they need to improve on as individuals and as a team.
Smith said: "We need to learn quicker, we need to improve quicker, and that’s the challenge Steve has given us – to look at our individual performances and all get better individually to try and add to the team. Time is against us, but I believe we’ve still got time. With the characters we’ve got in the group, we can turn things around very quickly."
??"I would be gutted if I turned up at Twickenham and seen an England team play like that..."— Talking Rugby Union (@TalkRugbyUnion) March 12, 2023
After England fell to a 10-53 loss to France in the Six Nations, Jamie George offered his apologies to supporters.
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Saturday’s opposition Ireland were previously described as the most cohesive side in the world by Borthwick’s predecessor, Eddie Jones before they played at Twickenham in last year’s Six Nations campaign.
With 20 Leinster players included in Andy Farrell’s 37-player squad for this week, undoubtedly the strong foundations needed for high levels of team cohesion are already established among the players well before they arrive in international camp.
For England, the picture looks a little different with players coming together from a multitude of different clubs. As a result, Smith believes that while England are not short of talent, they must work on their cohesion, and fast.
“It’s a massive honour to train week-in, week-out with these players. The key thing for us is that there are 11 teams in the Premiership, all with different ideas and ways of seeing the game, and we’ve got to get on the same page,” the fly-half explained.
A positive they will be taking with them into their final Six Nations match despite having their backs against the wall is the way the side responded to the challenge of playing with 14 players for the majority of their last game against Ireland after Charlie Ewels received a red card only 82 seconds into the match.
"We’ve got a week now to right some wrongs, and we’ve got to get on the same page quickly. Dublin away is going to be a tough test, but we’ll take massive confidence from what we did to them last year. We were very close, with a man down, and we’re better than we were last year,” Smith added.
Rather than being overwhelmed by the challenge that they will come up against at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, the conversations in the squad immediately after the record-breaking home defeat were that of solidarity as they face their last competitive fixture before the World Cup.
“We just said stick together because there’s going to be a lot of noise and a lot of pressure on us, and we’ve got to become tighter as opposed to splinter,” Smith said.
“Because this is a big test of our togetherness as a squad, of our resolve, there’s no better week than a free swing at Ireland,” he added with anticipation.