Steve Borthwick: ‘I’m really clear that there’s a lot of potential in the players that we have’

Steve Borthwick was unveiled as England head coach on Monday lunch time
©David Howlett

After being names as England head coach, Steve Borthwick says he is going to look at every single player to make the best England squad possible.

Recruited from Gallagher Premiership champions Leicester Tigers after leading the side, Borthwick has nine games between to get his England side ready to compete at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Coming straight from the Premiership to the national team, Borthwick is the first coach to have gone straight from the English top-flight to taking on the England job since Brian Ashton in 2006.

Having seen the virtues of the competition as a head coach for the past two years, the 43-year-old has watched on as his predecessor and mentor, Eddie Jones, failed to find the winning formula.

Consistently players like Adam Radwan, Ben Earl, Alex Lozowski and Alex Mitchell have been overlooked, but have excelled for their club sides.

With England’s first Guinness Six Nations fixture coming up at the start of February and only five permitted changes to England’s Elite Player Squad, it is unlikely that there will be wholesale changes to the playing group, although the Cumbrian was keen to impress his hope to create the best England team possible.

“I think the Premiership is a really high quality of competition and I have seen that week in, week out,” Borthwick said. “Trying to win the Premiership is tough because the teams compete so hard.

“What I am going to do is look at every single player and look at how we make this squad the best England squad we can make right now. I think the challenge is the amount of changes you make, you have only got five changes within that first squad list.

“But those are the details I am going to work super – I promise you; I am going to be looking at every single player.”

Jones and the Premiership always had a somewhat contentious relationship. Whether that the numerous injuries sustained in England training or the Australian’s lack of willingness to select the players in the best form, new leadership could result in a new mindset.

Having been in the cut and thrust of domestic action for two and a half years, Borthwick’s understanding of the battle between club and country is likely to be beneficial to bringing everyone onto the same page in such a short space of time.

Having spoken of wanting to hear the Twickenham roar once more and to create a team that supporters are proud of after ending their Autumn Nations Series with a 13-27 loss to South Africa and 82,000 home supporters booing the team off the field.

“I think the context for the players, understanding the preparation that each club goes into is high level, because of how hard it is each week to get the results you want to get,” Borthwick said.

“I think understanding the context for the players is really important, and I think understanding the quality of coaches around the Premiership. I think it is a really high standard.

“My job is to get selection right and to give the players a real clear plan. We are going to come in at the start of that Six Nations and we are going to have a few days preparation ahead of that, so I come back to it, what you do is get selection right and get the top two or three priorities we need to attend to.

“Ultimately, on that first game of the Six Nations, are we going to be perfect? No. Is it going to be exactly how we are going to play? No. It is going to see the start.

“But what is absolutely clear is, the team needs to go out there and it needs to fight. It needs to compete so that – you hear me asking – when they walk out, I want this crowd roaring. I want that Twickenham roar.

“Our job is to play in a manner, fight in a manner and compete in a manner that keeps them roaring.”

Saying that ‘every minute matters’ in his preparation as the Six Nations approaches at a rate of knots, Borthwick certainly has a number of things on his plate heading into the New Year.

With only Kevin Sinfield signed on as defence coach at present, Borthwick has to high a coaching group to support him and with a training camp coming up shortly, it seems like a necessity to have supporting coaches in place soon to help the national team develop quickly.

Honest in his statement that things will not click straight away, but that every game matters, Borthwick sees the outlook as positive and hopes to simply create a team that fans are proud of in the short-term.

“I’m really clear that there’s a lot of potential in the players that we have,” Borthwick said. “And I want to produce a team that delivers. I’m going to devote myself wholeheartedly to try to help this team deliver. A team that we can all be proud of.

“An England team that even if it doesn’t win, plays, fights and competes in a manner that you go ‘there’s bits here that they go about their work. We can get behind this. They might win every game or contest, but, we can certainly be proud of what they’re doing and see that they’re trying to do’.

“Now, my job is to do that, to build that team, so we continue to get better and better. The competition right now at Tier 1 Test level is very, very high. There are a number of teams competing around the same level, and then you have the strength of a team like Ireland who right now are very good.

“What we need to do is prepare as well as we possibly can. Yes, the Rugby World Cup is on the horizon. But the first game of the Six Nations is the one that’s really in my mind right now.”