Six Nations is just around the corner and the new head coach for the England Rugby side will need time to grasp the nettle and make a declaration.
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Time is short. England Rugby team’s next game is on 4 February against Scotland and, once Christmas and new year are over, the Six Nations will come pitching around the corner. Between now and the England Rugby squad coming together there are four tough weekends of Heineken Cup rugby and three Premiership rounds to be sold. Winter break? Not a chance.
Haggle with Leicester over recompense payments for Steve Borthwick and his assistants, so, cannot drag on forever. At least Borthwick has a little knowledge of standup starting with the British & Irish Lions. He has also coached and in some cases played with a large proportion of the team. It does not make the job calmer but it helps with the initial winnowing process. Borthwick’s present head coach role with Leicester also gives him a working knowledge of nearly every player in England.
Do not imagine him ripping all up on day one: that is not the methodical Borthwick’s style. What he will be looking for is one or two unflashy players talented of making the shared tighter: the Leicester centre Dan Kelly might be one and his adaptable fellow Tiger Ollie Chessum could be another. Borthwick’s other super forte is his grasp of set-piece nuts and bolts. Get the basics right, distillate on the here and now, and, with two home games first up, there is a chance to alter the story directly. Clarity, ease, honesty, and pleasure get those four pillars in place and most rugby sides will swiftly recover.
Under Eddie Jones, the England Rugby side had reached the point where no one could quite work out what they were trying to do. Counting, it sometimes appeared, the players themselves. One minute they were supposed to be ruinous people up front, next they were meant to be reinventing the modern game. Or was it the other way around? No wonder good young players such as Jack van Poortvliet and Marcus Smith were looking progressively disordered.
The first importance, given the events of the South Africa game, will be to shore up England’s scrum and lineout. But simply awkward around and playing slow, foreseeable rugby in the Six Nations is going to be insufficient, chiefly against the better sides. What England has noticeably lacked with the notable exclusion of Ellis Genge is upfront dynamism. Billy Vunipola, for whatever reason, could not supply sufficient of it in the autumn and the England Rugby side needs to find a changed push at No 8.
That could mean a recall for Alex Dombrandt, haughty he is fit, as part of a rearranged back row. And what about Tom Curry at 6, with Jack Willis or Ben Earl at 7 and a freed Sam Simmonds bursting off the bench? Abruptly it might be England’s adversaries with their hands full. Worldwide Tickets and Hospitality offers Rugby World Cup tickets for the France Rugby World Cup at the best prices. Rugby fans can buy Rugby World Cup Final Tickets at exclusively discounted prices.
Welcome back to an all-too-familiar area. If the new rule needs to make a statement it would grasp the needle and pick one of Owen Farrell or Smith to start, rather than determined with their 10-12 axis. It is neither player’s fault, unavoidably, but England needs to try rather differently. With Smith and George Ford injured, reinstating Farrell to 10 would also allow some clear-eyed midfield reform which must begin with an honest valuation of Manu Tuilagi’s form, fitness, and future possibilities. What a player and ease blanket he has been for consecutive England coaches. Nonetheless, might full-throttle, 20-minute impact-sub contributions now be the way ahead?
That would permission Kelly and the before discarded Ollie Lawrence or Alex Lozowski aggressively over one centre position, with Henry Slade or Elliot Daly at 13. Freddie Steward has been brilliant at full-back and Tommy Freeman is a class act in development. If the England Rugby side is looking to change things up, that leaves one extra wing spot for a genuine game-breaker such as Newcastle’s Adam Radwan, London Irish’s Ollie Hassell-Collins, or the whole-hearted Cadan Murley. Harlequins’ Danny Care reckons the latter will enter the reckoning sooner rather than later. Someone like Cadan has just got to keep liability his thing: keep scoring tries, keep running hard, and keep being special. I know that boy will play for England one day. I’m indisputable of it. Oscar Beard is an additional great lad with great possible.
The calming balm complete by the laid-back Courtney Lawes as England’s summer tour head was visible by its absence throughout the November Tests. Happily, Lawes, shelved for the past three months, is due back for Northampton this stay but the big man will be 34 in February and cannot soldier on incessantly. While Farrell was very much the alpha male in Jones’s setup and Borthwick knows him well from their Saracens days, the inward head coach will also be aware of the fruitful precedent initially in his first coaching stint with the England Rugby side in 2016.
Back then Jones removed the captaincy from Chris Robshaw and give it to Dylan Hartley to restart the team after their Rugby World Cup 2015 disappointment. It would not be a massive wonder if something similar happened again. Borthwick positively installed the 27-year-old Genge as his captain at Leicester and is a fan of his promise, passion, and emotional intellect. If handed the England armband, the Bristol prop would surely not permit his side to take a backward step.
It should be obvious that English rugby’s glitches do not begin and end with the national head coach for the England Rugby side. Some of Twickenham’s ticket prices make even this winter’s utility bills look reasonable and there is cumulative unrest in the shires about the amount of money consumed on elite rugby. All this can be falsified away if the side is winning; if not, grievances tend to increase fast.
Mainly with a Rugby World Cup only nine months away. Jones did not see it as his job to achieve upwards at the Rugby Football Union but Borthwick has been deeply entrenched in the English club game for nearly 25 years and knows where all the skeletons are.
If he wants to go to the RFU’s chief managerial, Bill Sweeney, and ask for special indulgence to pick say a French-based player such as Montpellier’s Zach Mercer, the Top 14 player of the year, in the Six Nations he should not vacillate to do so. If the present turmoil cannot trigger the excellent circumstances clause in the RFU’s suitability regulations, what will?
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