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England 2023 - Post 6N and beyond - Prep for WC

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri 30 Jun 2023, 12:38 pm

Continued.....

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri 30 Jun 2023, 12:42 pm

Only really surprised with the Mitchell exclusion tbh...the others were not certs.

JVP and Youngs as scrum half options is perhaps the most depressing WC position I can recall. JVP seemingly has more lifes than a cat as he's been utter dross far too many times.....and Youngs....Care the one hope, but I'm not overly impressed with him these days either.

Mercer is perhaps a good indication of the T14 overhype train. I didn't think he was anything that great prior to leaving and apparently hasn't improves too much.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 12:51 pm

You don't rate the t14 sarge?

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Post by mountain man Fri 30 Jun 2023, 12:54 pm

Agree on Mitchell but seeing how Domdrant got badly found out against France(as did most of team though), not having another specialised 8 is a mistake. Billy V may or may not be fit. Curry isn't an 8 so who else is there.

Obviously we don't see what's happening in training.

As for Youngs, FFS. JvP when he burst into team on Aus tour looked brilliant, just what we needed but since then seemed to have rapidly gone backwards.


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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 12:57 pm

Tactics mm. We don't want to play with pace. We want to reduce risks and play in the 'right' areas. I would think Borthwick is looking at the same stats as Jones re those that play from x metres lose more, those that kick most win more etc. We are playing percentages. We don't want a sh who is playing the ball away quickly as then our wingers won't be in the best positions for the kick chase.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri 30 Jun 2023, 1:10 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:You don't rate the t14 sarge?

Yea it's a good league, but not overly stronger than the past 10/15 years. The tops teams are very good but a lot still goes on home advantage.

English players tend to get highly rated there because they go for it every week, were I don't think this is always the case with the French (I have quite a few French rugby pals).

A lot of good prem players enhance their reputation without actually improving on their game....Bendy, Armitage etc and now we have the Mercers and Willis's etc.

I always thought the prem was the toughest week to week, the T14 for top end quality and the Pro12/Rabo or whatever, pretty awful.

Recent times have obviously reduced the quality of the Prem and the SA have uplifted the Rabo thing.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 1:12 pm

Ah, got you. Hence Mercer's able to pick up player of the year as the others coast.

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri 30 Jun 2023, 1:12 pm

I don't like Dombrandt at all, but I'd have him over Mercer everyday of the week.


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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 1:17 pm

I do like Dombrandt but I don't think the tactics will bring out the best in him so I kinda question why he's there. And that's similar to Mercer tbf. Willis seems more in the mould of 8 Borthwick wants, will carry all day long, 1 or 2 eye catching bursts but he lacks a bit of class. Could work with the right flankers maybe.

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Post by doctor_grey Fri 30 Jun 2023, 1:49 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Tactics mm. We don't want to play with pace. We want to reduce risks and play in the 'right' areas. I would think Borthwick is looking at the same stats as Jones re those that play from x metres lose more, those that kick most win more etc. We are playing percentages. We don't want a sh who is playing the ball away quickly as then our wingers won't be in the best positions for the kick chase.
I agree and are sure you are right about the tactics England will play: The clear strategy to bore teams into submission. It is what you do if you don't think you have the horses for anything else.

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Post by Poorfour Fri 30 Jun 2023, 2:01 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:I do like Dombrandt but I don't think the tactics will bring out the best in him so I kinda question why he's there. And that's similar to Mercer tbf. Willis seems more in the mould of 8 Borthwick wants, will carry all day long, 1 or 2 eye catching bursts but he lacks a bit of class. Could work with the right flankers maybe.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t know England’s tactics and may not know them in full until the knockout games. Borthwick was learning on the job and experimenting during the 6N, and only had a couple of weeks to prepare.

With 2-3 months in camp with the players, he has time to develop every aspect of the game and will presumably pick his squad to fit his tactics (and adapt his tactics to get the most out of his squad). In many ways that’s England’s biggest advantage in the RWC - no-one will know much about how they are going to play, and probably won’t see much of it even in the pool stages.
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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 2:50 pm

I need to shake off the negativity until England emerge against Wales (probably) then.

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Post by nlpnlp Fri 30 Jun 2023, 3:41 pm

Poorfour wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:I do like Dombrandt but I don't think the tactics will bring out the best in him so I kinda question why he's there. And that's similar to Mercer tbf. Willis seems more in the mould of 8 Borthwick wants, will carry all day long, 1 or 2 eye catching bursts but he lacks a bit of class. Could work with the right flankers maybe.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t know England’s tactics and may not know them in full until the knockout games. Borthwick was learning on the job and experimenting during the 6N, and only had a couple of weeks to prepare.

With 2-3 months in camp with the players, he has time to develop every aspect of the game and will presumably pick his squad to fit his tactics (and adapt his tactics to get the most out of his squad). In many ways that’s England’s biggest advantage in the RWC - no-one will know much about how they are going to play, and probably won’t see much of it even in the pool stages.

On the basis SB has picked the 3 scrum halves with the best box kick hang time and not retained the scrum halves with arguably the best passing/running game, I think we can guess what the tactics are going to be - box kick, chase, compete.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 4:13 pm

Sounds as if Genge, Farrell and Lawes are guaranteed a starting place:

'England boss Steve Borthwick says his side's early preparations for the Rugby World Cup have been a "level up" from anything he's experienced before.

Borthwick has named an official 41-man training squad, including Saracens and Sale's Premiership finalists.

Having been involved in four World Cup camps before, Borthwick says his players are already pushing boundaries.

"This preparation we have done so far is unlike anything I have been involved in," he said.

Borthwick told BBC Sport: "As a player or a coach, this is my fifth Rugby World Cup preparation.

"What I am seeing from this programme is a level up on anything from the previous four.

"We were training yesterday and it was some session. The two forwards who ran the furthest and fastest were Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes.

"If you have a leadership group with Owen Farrell with Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes, I think that is a pretty powerful force."

Borthwick confirmed on Friday that Farrell will lead the side at the World Cup, with Genge and Lawes as vice-captains.

Farrell's appointment was rubber-stamped during a recent two-hour walk through the Hertfordshire countryside.

"Owen is a fantastic leader who has immense respect from the players," Borthwick said.

"Ten days ago we took a very long walk through the fields outside where he lives and talked about everything we want to do with this team.

"I am excited to have him in camp from Sunday night when we get to work."

Dan desperate to impress
Farrell was a major influence as Saracens won their sixth Premiership title at the end of May, with rookie hooker Theo Dan also playing a starring role in the final.

With British and Irish Lion Luke Cowan-Dickie ruled out, Dan will be competing with the likes of Jamie Blamire and Jack Walker to support the established Jamie George.

While accepting some of his hookers lack experience in Cowan-Dickie's absence, Borthwick is buoyed by the attitude of the 22-year-old Dan.

"Everyone will talk about the way Theo Dan played in that Premiership final - it was terrific - but what struck me about him was after one of the first meetings I had with him, within an hour I had Jamie George on the phone," Borthwick said.

"Because Theo had gone straight to Jamie and picked Jamie George's brains. That tells me this is a guy who is hungry and wants to get better.

"I want an environment in which every player can thrive. A player comes into this England environment and they improve as a player and bring all their strengths and personality to the environment."

Care on brink of World Cup Squad
Another player who has added to that culture is veteran scrum-half Danny Care, who appears to be on the brink of a place in the World Cup squad at the age of 36.

With Alex Mitchell, Harry Randall and Ben Spencer all jettisoned, the 87-cap Care is one of only three nines remaining, the others being Ben Youngs and Jack van Poortvliet.

"Danny has been an incredibly positive influence. He is able to sit with any player, young or less young in the squad, and able to talk with them and help them," Borthwick said.

"The smile is never far away and that's important around the squad, having that energy and that excitement.

"He is deeply passionate about English rugby and this England team. So he has been brilliant over these three weeks and I expect him to keep growing in influence."

There are more than 200 England caps between Care and Youngs, with Borthwick stressing the value of experience given his lack of time in the role.

The former Leicester boss only joined the England set-up in December following Eddie Jones' sacking, and only finalised his World Cup backroom team in May.

"This hasn't been a four-year cycle. I started six to eight months ago and the coaching team was together [for the first time] four weeks ago," he said.

"So we are making decisions in that context and the context of having a Rugby World Cup right around the corner. So experience and know-how in those big games is crucial, so that has certainly been a factor in this selection process.

"But I also think there is plenty of youth in this squad, players who have emerged through the latter part of the season and have emerged in these first few weeks.

"I can't wait to get started with this full squad. So far, the more time I spend with them the more excited I get about the potential of what these players can achieve in France."'

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 4:20 pm

Well I did say that Jones lack of focus on 'the next game' was a big reason for me wanting him gone so in that respect Borthwick is ticking the box. Really don't think though his way of going about it is quite right in simply going by experience. He gives mouth service to youth but i'd be surprised now to see much change from what we saw (was not good enough) in the 6Ns. Sorry the negativity bubbles back up every time I see anything about this squad or approach. If I'd foreseen this I'd have been all in on Jones staying.

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Post by Geordie Fri 30 Jun 2023, 4:48 pm

Soooo.....we probably know these already...

1 Genge
2 George with Theo on the bench
3
4
5 Itoje
6 Lawes
7 Curry
8 Dombrandt

9 JVP
10 Ford
11
12 Farrell
13
14
15 Steward

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 5:03 pm

3 is sinckler. 4 will be Hill. May Watson. Slade. 9 will be youngs.

Should throw in there that Vunipola will be 8 if fit.


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Post by doctor_grey Fri 30 Jun 2023, 5:05 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:I need to shake off the negativity until England emerge against Wales (probably) then.
Why go through the motions to shake it off when you know it's coming back, again and again....

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Post by Geordie Fri 30 Jun 2023, 5:14 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:3 is sinckler. 4 will be Hill. May Watson. Slade. 9 will be youngs.

Should throw in there that Vunipola will be 8 if fit.

Well Stuart might be playing well in training.  Ribbans in with Itoje is a nice combo.  

So I think there's still a few uncertain places.

England will make rhe semis...all depends on the wingers...and how their kick chase is.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 5:28 pm

It's as easy a run as you could want. Were we in the sa group....

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Post by Sgt_Pooly Fri 30 Jun 2023, 6:44 pm

Geordie wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:3 is sinckler. 4 will be Hill. May Watson. Slade. 9 will be youngs.

Should throw in there that Vunipola will be 8 if fit.

Well Stuart might be playing well in training.  Ribbans in with Itoje is a nice combo.  

So I think there's still a few uncertain places.

England will make rhe semis...all depends on the wingers...and how their kick chase is.

I really like the potential of Ribbans, Itoje and Lawes at 4/5/6....plenty of physicality and a good set piece. If you then add Martin and possibly Pearson from the bench it's as good as we can expect.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Fri 30 Jun 2023, 7:16 pm

Given that there's a lack of experience in Ribbans Martin and Pearson do you think it's likely they play?

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Post by Poorfour Fri 30 Jun 2023, 7:17 pm

nlpnlp wrote:
On the basis SB has picked the 3 scrum halves with the best box kick hang time and not retained the scrum halves with arguably the best passing/running game, I think we can guess what the tactics are going to be - box kick, chase, compete.

That might be true of JvP and Youngs, but Care still has a running game and I think had the most try assists in the Premiership this season. He does kick more these days (and has worked on his box kick), but that's because in Quins' gameplan the SH does a lot of the territorial kicking that the FH does in other teams.
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Post by formerly known as Sam Fri 30 Jun 2023, 8:41 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Given that there's a lack of experience in Ribbans Martin and Pearson do you think it's likely they play?

Given Itoje and one of Curry and Lawes would likely be pairing with them it wouldn't be to big an impact experience wise. England don't really have much experience at lock outside of Itoje so there will be some experience there whichever way you cut it.

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Post by Yoda Fri 30 Jun 2023, 11:44 pm

I think SB is thinking of total caps for tight world cup matches. He might be onto something here and although we probably want to throw in some youth and let them loose I'm not sure a world cup knock out game is the place for it. Every world cup has been won by teams with 700+ caps and a large amount of seen it got the t shirt veterans.

He has to the counteract the chaos of the last administration and get an experienced group together who have big game experience from world cup finals, grand slam deciders and of course lions caps. Danny care instead of Mitchell I also get, especially if you pair him with Smith. The only quandary for me is who plays 12 as Faz has to play 10 as demonstrated by the prem final.

Finally really pleased for the Willis brothers, Tom is good player who won't let us down at all and is very good at the hard yards. I hope he makes it as our pack will benefit from a big lump who runs through brick walls. Definitely a blue print of traditional English rugby being served up, it has served us well in the past. Sit back and enjoy the kicking and pushing and mauling from the men in white!

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Post by Rugby Fan Sat 01 Jul 2023, 1:24 am

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2023/06/30/england-rugby-world-cup-training-squad-live-steve-borthwick/

“A big part of the conversation was about how we’re going to play,” Borthwick said. “One of the things we have to recognise here is that this has not been a four-year cycle of building the game plan. The coaching team came together three weeks ago, the squad will come together on Sunday night to start training on Monday.

“So we need to make sure we have the foundation of the game and then tactical flexibility on top of that. I’m very confident when we arrive in France there will be some things the opposition won’t expect from us.”

While Borthwick remained tight-lipped on what England had been working on - he would not confirm whether Farrell would now be deployed solely as a fly-half, for instance - the head coach highlighted Care’s tactical acumen as a strength that sets him apart, while confirming his intention to take three scrum-halves to France.

“I’ll share one thing,” he said. “The last game Harlequins played last season was against Leicester, who had a wing sent off. The way Danny and Marcus [Smith] then targeted that corner I thought was tactically brilliant. I watched the conversations that were happening and when I chat to Danny now about his understanding of the game and what he sees, that experience is incredible. He sees so much and he also adds an incredible dimension with the way he plays.”


At No 8, Borthwick has opted for the uncapped Tom Willis - brother of Jack, who is also included - over Zach Mercer, the Top 14 player of the season in 2021/22. Billy Vunipola is also included as one of five players in camp for rehabilitation, alongside brother Mako, lock Ollie Chessum, centre Ollie Lawrence and hooker Jack Walker. Borthwick confirmed that the expectation was that all five would be fit for selection but that recovery from injury is not “linear”.

Allied to those injuries, Borthwick added that usually there might be “four, five, six” spots up for grabs before naming a final 33-player squad for the World Cup on August 7. However, the head coach highlighted how players were constantly “emerging in training”, recognising both Tom Pearson’s results on the watt bike and Henry Arundell’s speed in recent weeks as evidence of the benefits of training camps. The head coach also sent a message to those who have been omitted to “be ready”.

“There’s a number of players I’ve had conversations with about missing out on this squad, and every one of them I’ve said, you need to be ready for an opportunity to come,” the head coach said.

“One thing that’s consistent in every World Cup preparation I’ve been involved in, in 2003 as a player missing out, 2007 as a player, then 2015 and 2019 as a coach, every one of those preparation periods, there’s always something that happens, and somebody from outside the squad comes in.

“So the message to every player is: be ready. If your opportunity comes, be ready to take it.”

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 6:52 am

Borthwick has a cunning plan.

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Post by mountain man Sat 01 Jul 2023, 7:23 am

No 7&1/2 wrote:Borthwick has a cunning plan.

Can only hope so.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 8:11 am

Care from the bench is a pretty decent option to have but I really didn't expect to get to 2023 and it still be youngs and Care in the squad, so little time taken to building that depth and we've got to the point where in key positions were falling back to what we know. The guys impressing are those who are best in the gym too.


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Post by doctor_grey Sat 01 Jul 2023, 8:11 am

mountain man wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:Borthwick has a cunning plan.

Can only hope so.
Drinking in the morning, eh boys?  

To me, the notion that the core of this team is the same core which has played so much mediocre Rugby for the last 4 years is a problem.  Not remotely looking for complete turnover, but to retain players either past their prime, never had a prime, unable to create, or who give no reason for optimism to me shows a total disregard for the situation.  I'm now tired of hearing Borthwick talking about the lack of a 4 year prep cycle.  We know this - we do follow Rugby, Steve.  Just get out there and get a team which can do something.  And if asked about a 4 year window, don't answer it.  Time to move forward.  Say it.  But do it, too.

I think England's draw is not helpful in the long run.  If England make it to the semi-finals, that could cover a myriad of ills which will show up afterwards.  And then everyone will act surprised.  Of course, this assumes England make it out of their pool.  I really don't want to see England lose to France (for example) and be embarassed again as in the Six Nations.  To be blown up like that twice in one year on a global stage should shake the pillars of heaven.  I am already taking my anti-nausea medication in preparation.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 8:18 am

doctor_grey wrote:
mountain man wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:Borthwick has a cunning plan.

Can only hope so.
Drinking in the morning, eh boys?  

To me, the notion that the core of this team is the same core which has played so much mediocre Rugby for the last 4 years is a problem.  Not remotely looking for complete turnover, but to retain players either past their prime, never had a prime, unable to create, or who give no reason for optimism to me shows a total disregard for the situation.  I'm now tired of hearing Borthwick talking about the lack of a 4 year prep cycle.  We know this - we do follow Rugby, Steve.  Just get out there and get a team which can do something.  And if asked about a 4 year window, don't answer it.  Time to move forward.  Say it.  But do it, too.

I think England's draw is not helpful in the long run.  If England make it to the semi-finals, that could cover a myriad of ills which will show up afterwards.  And then everyone will act surprised.  Of course, this assumes England make it out of their pool.  I really don't want to see England lose to France (for example) and be embarassed again as in the Six Nations.  To be blown up like that twice in one year on a global stage should shake the pillars of heaven.  I am already taking my anti-nausea medication in preparation.

Yeah i just want to see a little ambition. We have seen these experienced players. I remember youngs coming on against Scotland bringing all that experience and know how. He certainly helped turn the game.

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Post by Yoda Sat 01 Jul 2023, 9:58 am

I don't think SB had a choice regarding the old guard especially at 9. Jones did so little to bed in new options that the young guns simply don't have enough experience. I think had Raffi quirke and Randell etc had played more then they would have been ready for a change in style however SB has had to go back to basics and practice scrummaging and all the other nuts and bolts that should be a given when walking into an England camp.

The pack wins the match the backs decide by how many. SB is pragmatic and knows he has to win matches so in his mind the monster pack that he craves is priority one two and three (hence retain Billy and calling up Tom Willis). The flashy stuff he may add in the coming years. I think we have to be patient, hope our pack goes well and our attack develops quickly.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 10:52 am

There's always a choice. And I'm not sure it's particularly against type for him to go down this route. I was hoping that he may have another string to his bow with the better options he has for England.

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Post by formerly known as Sam Sat 01 Jul 2023, 1:05 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:There's always a choice. And I'm not sure it's particularly against type for him to go down this route. I was hoping that he may have another string to his bow with the better options he has for England.

Borthwick was always going to be pragmatic as head coach. He was at Tigers. He's not anti attacking rugby but he's not someone that likes his team taking unnecessary risks. Play for territory and take the risks in attack in the opposition third of the pitch. He does trust his playmakers to step out the game plan and do their own thing, I think the issue during the 6N was that Farrell didn't have the vision to do that and Smith didn't have the experience to do it effectively. I'm hoping a return of Ford in that role might work better.

It looks so far like the side will be something like;

Genge, George, ???
???, Itoje
Lawes, ???, Curry
JVP, ???
???, Lawrence
???, Steward, Watson

Chessum's injury makes the lock combination an uncertainty otherwise in Chessum, JVP, Lawrence and Steward you have four young guns that have come good and come into the side pretty well (three very well, JVP has had some tough outings). If Chessum doesn't make it then it's likely to be Ribbans or Hill who are both in the prime age for a lock or Martin who looks to have a big future (and is more than a bit handy now).

Stuart might take the shirt off of Sinckler but that's a battle between two tightheads in prime age so that's pretty much ideal. 8 as we know is a problem position, there's a number of good flankers at least. The 10/12 combination is still a problem, Farrell is likely to wear one of the two shirts with Ford/Smith or Manu in the other. Left wing feels wide open.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 3:22 pm

Can't agree with your assessment of Farrell and Smith. The issue we had and are going to have is the coach.

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Post by formerly known as Sam Sat 01 Jul 2023, 4:11 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:Can't agree with your assessment of Farrell and Smith. The issue we had and are going to have is the coach.

Well the coach was Nick Evans so possibly for the best he's not there then.

Farrell is a great system player. It's been a key aspect of the Sarries success. When Sarries have come unstuck it's been an issue of theirs that Farrell isn't the one that will do something different to change the picture of the game, he'll keep hammering away at the given tactics.

Smith looked out of his depth. Has done for nearly every cap so far. Clearly a player with massive potential but he's had teammates around him and he's had his club attack coach but it's not worked. I think it would actually be better for him when Borthwick has rebuilt the side and got everything settled as so far Smith has come into a side that has been constantly changing. Hard to build the confidence to back yourself in those circumstances.

The 6N was a disaster in so many ways but the scrum and the lineout were at least much improved. If Walters can up the fitness levels then hopefully Sinfield will be able to make his defensive system work.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sat 01 Jul 2023, 4:21 pm

The coach was Borthwick.

Scrum was better,still amazed they weren't doing anything in training on it under Jones and Proudfoot. Lineout was decent but not massively better than anything we've seen recently. That will surely be 1 area where Borthwick will improve us though. It will be our primary weapon.

Could it be that'll he's moved to the side and takes on the forwards lineout role when things don't work out? May save us some money depending on whether the rfu have written a good contract this time.

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Post by Rugby Fan Sun 02 Jul 2023, 2:13 am

Telegraph:

Borthwick: 'Marler is a brilliant voice of experience'

Joe Marler has been heralded by Steve Borthwick as a crucial pillar of England’s bid to reestablish their scrum as a dominant force ahead of the World Cup.

Marler has amassed 79 caps and will celebrate his 33rd birthday on July 7, but is without a Test appearance since the 2022 Six Nations.

Even so, Borthwick labelled the loosehead prop’s contribution to the opening three weeks of World Cup preparations “superb”. Indeed, along with vice-captain Ellis Genge, veteran tighthead prop Dan Cole and new scrum coach Tom Harrison, Marler was branded as a “crucial” figure in the mission to solidify England’s set-piece operation.

“Every really good England team that I have ever been a part of, or watched, has had a really good set piece,” Borthwick said. “I spoke to you about where the set piece had got to prior to me joining here and we’ve made some inroads into that with the scrum, the line-out and the maul in the Six Nations. That needs to push on.

“It has to be one of the key foundations of this England team. It’s part of England’s rugby identity. The role that Joe Marler, Ellis Genge and Dan Cole have in working with Tom Harrison, the coach, in building this scrum is vital.”

Marler is alongside Genge, Val Rapava-Ruskin and Bevan Rodd as one of four loosehead props in the England training squad, with Mako Vunipola named in a designated rehabilitation group.

Hailing the Harlequin as a “brilliant voice of experience” and a “role model”, despite a significant absence from the fold, Borthwick explained that he has endeavoured to make the England camp a place for all characters to thrive.

“I want players to be in a position where they feel like they can be themselves; to bring all their personality to the environment,” Borthwick added. “I encourage them to do so. Every person is different and needs different things, though the team is always central. The sense I get from Joe is that this is an environment where he can be himself.”

This from Charlie Morgan:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/rugby-union/2023/07/01/england-rugby-world-cup-back-row-tom-pearson/

While it was not as bombastic as anything his predecessor might have proclaimed, Steve Borthwick still caused ears to prick up by urging World Cup rivals to expect the unexpected from England. Examining the training squad named on Friday and taking recent trends into account, there is an obvious place to begin pondering how Borthwick might mix things up.

Of the 46 players in the group, 13 are potential back-rowers. The figure includes Maro Itoje but not Theo Dan and Jamie Blamire, though the latter were used as emergency flankers for Saracens and Newcastle Falcons, respectively, last season. In short, Borthwick left himself scope to assemble some funky – and fresh – combinations. Existing cohesion and experience can be valuable. However, perhaps counterintuitively, so can the element of surprise. Revisiting England’s 2019 campaign, to which Borthwick was integral, reinforces as much.

Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, having made their Test debuts in separate matches on the Argentina tour two years previously, were picked to start together for the first time ahead of England’s first warm-up game against Wales. Underhill would pull out due to a toe injury. Lewis Ludlam came in, delaying a pivotal partnership.

When Underhill and Curry were finally unleashed in tandem, either side of Billy Vunipola for the third warm-up Test, Ireland suffered 57-15 loss that they never recovered from. Conversely, a thumping victory, full of power and swagger, spurred England towards an impressive tournament in Japan. Eddie Jones christened the ‘Kamikaze Kids’. Borthwick’s nous as forwards coach, particularly with regard to line-out strategy, would have been vital.

Four years on, mystery surrounds the make-up of Borthwick’s best back row and, by the look of it, the England head coach is willing to allow an intriguing blend of players to ferment during this vital pre-season. Asked about the Curry-Underhill tag-team of 2019, he first hinted at a move back to the future before name-checking the Willis brothers and Tom Pearson. It seems Pearson, the ex-London Irish tyro, has excelled over the past three weeks.

“I’m really excited,” said Borthwick. “I was talking to Sam [Underhill] yesterday. He’s had a challenging period with injuries over the second half of the season, but when I watched him train - and we trained on the same field in 2019 - and chatted with Richard Hill, who is an incredible rugby brain, we agreed that it was the Sam of 2019 out there. He’s been tremendous.

“I’m also excited about the other players. We’ve talked about the need for Jack and Tom [Willis] to manage training loads in this period [after finishing club seasons in France]. And there’s Tom Pearson, who’s immersed himself in this environment.



“I said on day one that he set the standard for others to follow. That’s the challenge laid down to every one of the players there. They are competing. They are working together, but they are competing. And that’s great to see in the back row.”

As ever, one cannot view the back-row shake-up in isolation from the locks available. Vice-captain Courtney Lawes might still spend time in the second row, yet is primarily a blindside flanker. His line-out jumping from that position makes a pack more imposing. Ludlam wore six throughout the Six Nations and was rugged.

Curry covers both flanker berths and, of course, has moonlighted at the base of the scrum. Pearson’s versatility will be explored. Ben Earl joins Jack Willis among the openside options, both of them domestic champions in the Premiership and Top 14. Tom Willis and Alex Dombrandt have ousted Zach Mercer to join Billy Vunipola as potential No 8s.



With Charlie Ewels dropping out, Jonny Hill and David Ribbans are the sole out-and-out locks in contention. George Martin, like Itoje and Ollie Chessum, is capable of operating as a blindside but more likely to be considered as a second-row. The 22-year-old Martin is coming off the back of a season full of fearsome carrying for Leicester Tigers.

He and Pearson, both of them burly and abrasive, would appear best placed to disrupt the established order. Then again, deploying Curry with Jack Willis would cause severe headaches among rival coaches. Publicly at least, Jones refused to entertain the idea of a Curry-Willis enterprise. Perhaps that was one of the cards he was holding close to his chest.

Out in Japan four years ago, Jones relished the commitment and dynamism with which Curry and Underhill caused havoc, notably during the famous semi-final victory over New Zealand. One sensed a hint of innocence, too. Curry was 21 and Underhill 23. In their maiden World Cup, ignorance was bliss; for everyone except the opposition.

Borthwick has vowed to build connections among individuals on the field and off it. That way, new combinations can hit the ground running. Video analysis mitigates how much England can surprise sides. Clips of uncapped individuals in Premiership and Top 14 action will be widespread. If he strikes upon a blend that clicks as the Kamikaze Kids did, though, Borthwick will have engineered his own secret weapon.

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Post by formerly known as Sam Sun 02 Jul 2023, 8:25 am

No 7&1/2 wrote:The coach was Borthwick.

Scrum was better,still amazed they weren't doing anything in training on it under Jones and Proudfoot. Lineout was decent but not massively better than anything we've seen recently. That will surely be 1 area where Borthwick will improve us though. It will be our primary weapon.

Could it be that'll he's moved to the side and takes on the forwards lineout role when things don't work out? May save us some money depending on whether the rfu have written a good contract this time.

I don't see Borthwick being moved out. He'd been in the job five minutes by the time the 6N came around and didn't have his coaching team together. We still had plenty of territory and possession in most of the games (France being somewhat of an aberration) but we did very little with it. Possibly because Evans didn't have much time to move things along and partly because the lack of a settled backline didn't help cohesion.

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Post by mountain man Sun 02 Jul 2023, 8:54 am

Could it be that'll he's moved to the side and takes on the forwards lineout role when things don't work out? May save us some money depending on whether the rfu have written a good contract this time.

Even if England get knocked out at group stage in RWC I just cannot see him being sacked or demoted from head coach.
If England get humiliated at RWC - lose badly to Argentina and/or Japan and they only come 4th or 5th in next years 6N maybe then the knives come out but before that just can't see it.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sun 02 Jul 2023, 9:35 am

I'm trying to a spin on it that at least gives me hope! A large part of the media supported his appointment so yes it'll take some really poor results or displays to swing them.

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Post by mountain man Sun 02 Jul 2023, 9:46 am

Apart from anything else it would make RFU look like they gave job to wrong man(yes I know you think they did) if they sacked him less than 12 months in.

I'm not at all convinced on Borthwick so far but I think he has to be given a bit of time. I'd say another year through to 2024 Autumn games and if no improvement and Eng lose games they should win then fair enough.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sun 02 Jul 2023, 1:22 pm

I always think it looks bad and calls your decisions into question but on the flip side acknowledging and changing your mind shows some strength. It's why I mentioned what people may think was the minimum achievement needed. Just galls me that we've pretty much wasted the last 3 to 4 years and we get to the WC and we're being told development is on hold simply as its the WC.

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Post by formerly known as Sam Sun 02 Jul 2023, 1:26 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:I'm trying to a spin on it that at least gives me hope! A large part of the media supported his appointment so yes it'll take some really poor results or displays to swing them.

So you're desperate for England to fail so that Borthwick goes?

There wasn't a better option for England to select. McCall and Baxter weren't interested. Robertson was after the All Blacks job (which he took shortly after Borthers was appointed). There's the likes of Sanderson and Skivington who are similar to Borthwick but so far less successful otherwise you were looking to buy out a more well known coach but most were not available.

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Post by No 7&1/2 Sun 02 Jul 2023, 1:37 pm

formerly known as Sam wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:I'm trying to a spin on it that at least gives me hope! A large part of the media supported his appointment so yes it'll take some really poor results or displays to swing them.

So you're desperate for England to fail so that Borthwick goes?

There wasn't a better option for England to select. McCall and Baxter weren't interested. Robertson was after the All Blacks job (which he took shortly after Borthers was appointed). There's the likes of Sanderson and Skivington who are similar to Borthwick but so far less successful otherwise you were looking to buy out a more well known coach but most were not available.

It's always an awkward one that isn't it. I'll sit watching the games hoping it all falls into place. I'm in the mind space that we're not going to develop or play am entertaining game no matter what the time given to him is so it's a bit like a band aid.

As per the Leicester ceo (? Sorry forgotten her name again) Borthwick was the only guy in the picture. Long term planning can be a good thing of course. As much as I love the idea of the rfu doing a proper round Robin of candidates it didn't happen. 1 candidate. They were clapping their decision as it's the development coach thong they wanted.

I hope I speak enough crap on here for people to know I'll hold my hands up and say well done when I think I was wrong. The one that sticks in my head was I never thought farrell at 12 would work, spectacularly wrong on that.

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Post by Poorfour Sun 02 Jul 2023, 2:32 pm

Interesting article in the Guardian about the tone that Borthwick is setting. Key points for those who can’t be bothered to read it:
- Borthwick has told each player where they are in selection terms and what they need to do to improve their chances
- 28 of the final 33 are fairly settled
- Planning to take 3 scrum halves and 3 fly halves, though he mentioned Farrell as a potential 12 as well
- He has passed Marler’s cowpat detector. It seems that Borthwick had to persuade Marler to unretire again and join the squad, which Marler only agreed to do if he could look Borthwick in the eye and tell that he was serious about the plans he’d set out. Make of that what you will, but Marler has consistently been willing to walk away from roles, squads and environments where he doesn’t feel able to be fully committed.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2023/jul/01/steve-borthwick-jones-england-players-rugby-world-cup-squad
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Post by formerly known as Sam Sun 02 Jul 2023, 3:25 pm

No 7&1/2 wrote:
formerly known as Sam wrote:
No 7&1/2 wrote:I'm trying to a spin on it that at least gives me hope! A large part of the media supported his appointment so yes it'll take some really poor results or displays to swing them.

So you're desperate for England to fail so that Borthwick goes?

There wasn't a better option for England to select. McCall and Baxter weren't interested. Robertson was after the All Blacks job (which he took shortly after Borthers was appointed). There's the likes of Sanderson and Skivington who are similar to Borthwick but so far less successful otherwise you were looking to buy out a more well known coach but most were not available.

It's always an awkward one that isn't it. I'll sit watching the games hoping it all falls into place. I'm in the mind space that we're not going to develop or play am entertaining game no matter what the time given to him is so it's a bit like a band aid.

As per the Leicester ceo (? Sorry forgotten her name again) Borthwick was the only guy in the picture. Long term planning can be a good thing of course. As much as I love the idea of the rfu doing a proper round Robin of candidates it didn't happen. 1 candidate. They were clapping their decision as it's the development coach thong they wanted.

I hope I speak enough crap on here for people to know I'll hold my hands up and say well done when I think I was wrong. The one that sticks in my head was I never thought farrell at 12 would work, spectacularly wrong on that.

Pinchen the Tigers CEO talked to the RFU last summer and asked was Borthwick in contention for appointment this summer. The RFU confirmed it. In a rare moment of decent organisation from the RFU they had clearly decided on their preferred successor well in advance of Eddie leaving. So when Eddie was sacked early then it made sense to bring ahead the plan. Tigers weren't very happy about it obviously as they had their own succession plans thrown into the toilet.

There has been an interview with the guy whose job it is to develop EQ coaches around the world. The RFU were keeping tabs on hundreds of coaches for both the current selection and for possible future hirings or assistance. Borthwick was just the obvious hire.

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Post by mountain man Sun 02 Jul 2023, 3:47 pm

The one that sticks in my head was I never thought farrell at 12 would work, spectacularly wrong on that.

So by that you think Farrell at 12 is a spectacular success? Got to say I am not convinced and think he is a far better 10 and England definitely have better 12s than him.

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Post by doctor_grey Sun 02 Jul 2023, 4:26 pm

Poorfour wrote:Marler has consistently been willing to walk away from roles, squads and environments where he doesn’t feel able to be fully committed.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2023/jul/01/steve-borthwick-jones-england-players-rugby-world-cup-squad
Marler has also publically stated in the recent past that his wife will kick his @rse if goes away with England. He must have gotten a pass for the RWC, but for a dad with a young family, he was choosing family over a bunch of nice game cheques. More power to him....

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Post by mountain man Sun 02 Jul 2023, 4:30 pm

Regards Marler or any other player, they need to be 100% committed or they shouldn't be selected.
Int rugby tough enough as it is but if there is a player with doubts as to whether he wants to be there or not that can only be detrimental both to him and team.

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