It's time to move on from Owen Farrell

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On one hand, with two Six Nations wins from three games, Steve Borthwick’s England reign could be said to have made a half-decent start.

Meanwhile, an alternative view suggests losing at home to Scotland then struggling past Italy and woeful Wales is a slightly underwhelming effort from the world’s best-funded rugby nation.

Having come across Borthwick on a few occasions while he was in charge at Leicester, his approach to handling the media and his open, friendly approach since taking the England job from Eddie Jones has been a pleasant and very welcome surprise.

Reportedly, his behind-the-scenes staff find the former Bath and Saracens lock a likeable figure who has plenty of time for everyone. A sharp contrast therefore with his acerbic predecessor and hopefully a man who can deliver a long-term winning culture rather than the kind of electric shock therapy which brought some short-term success to teams coached by Jones.


There is no doubting that Borthwick has impeccable credentials for the top job courtesy of his brilliantly successful career as player, captain, lineout specialist, coach and more recently at the helm of a Tigers side which he transformed from relegation candidates to English champions almost overnight.

Regardless of how England fare during March or at France 2023, he should therefore be guaranteed a good run in the head coach role. Nonetheless, we also must acknowledge that should England follow the formbook and be well beaten by world no.1 and no.2 sides France and Ireland, they will unacceptably once again finish in the lower reaches of the Six Nations table.

Borthwick’s pointed comments about the side he inherited not being much good at anything are spot on as their travails in the scrum, their lack of power at the breakdown and with ball in hand and their regular disciplinary problems under Jones clearly showed. The new boss certainly has plenty on his ‘to do’ list and only limited match time before the World Cup in which to tackle it.

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Judged by their approach against Italy and Wales, England’s priority is to re-establish their pack’s traditional status as one of the world’s most combative outfits with a powerful scrum and lineout and a dynamic driving maul.

To this end, the return of Dan Cole and the selection (and old-style non-substitution of Jamie George) has shored up the setpiece. In addition, the presence of Alex Dombrandt, Lewis Ludlam and Ollie Lawrence has brought a gain-line threat and by putting England more regularly on the front foot shrunk their breakdown penalty count.

England almost won the 1991 World Cup with a forward pack and good kicking game, but a repeat performance is surely now impossible given the nature of the modern game. For example, South Africa’s winning team in Japan certainly had a dominant set of forwards, but also plenty of power and craft in their backline plus a pair of electric wingers.

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