England fail to secure new coach Steve Borthwick win in Six Nations opener

When news broke of England head coach Eddie Jones’ sacking late last year – some fans and pundits took it as a shock – while others believed it had been coming for quite some time. You could see both sides of the argument, as on one hand, Jones had experienced enormous success with the national team during his tenure – which included back-to-back Six Nations victories in 2016 and 2017, as well as a Rugby World Cup (RWC) final appearance in Japan in 2019.

On the contrary, England had only won five of the last 12 tests before Jones was let go, to go along with a dismal showing in the Six Nations in 2021 in which England finished fifth. However, it was the Autumn Nations Series in November which was the straw that broke the camel’s back – as his side went on to win one, lose two and secure a draw across four games.

England’s Autumn campaign acted as an accurate microcosm of their struggles in recent years – as they showed they’re an extremely talented side when playing well – however – that was becoming too few and far between.

In addition to the stout defence they exhibited in their 2019 RWC run severely diminishing, they also became ill-disciplined and faded late in games. That led fans to speculate whether Jones had lost the dressing room – and it appears as though the Rugby Football Union (RFU) believed he had, and made the decision to fire him in November, effective immediately.

The favourite to take over the position was Steve Borthwick, a former England lock who played with the national team between 2001-2010. He also captained his country, with him leading his team out in 21 of his 57 caps.

His appointment as head coach was confirmed in December – giving him less than two months to prepare for the 2023 Six Nations. In spite of that, given he has a great understanding of what it takes to succeed as an English international, there was plenty of positivity surrounding his hiring heading into the tournament.

However, they couldn’t get the job done in Borthwick’s first match in the top job, with England losing 29-23 to Scotland in a classic. It marks Scotland’s third consecutive Calcutta Cup, and while the England side showed more fight for their new coach, there’s still lingering issues that hindered their performance.

They did at times play with freedom like Borthwick promised, however, their combinations in the backline continued to struggle, with their plays off the back of set-pieces and breakdowns oftentimes looking disjointed. Growing pains are to be expected though, and Borthwick isn’t unaware of the challenge that awaits him.

“When I looked at the team in the autumn, when I measured the team and got all the data for the team, we weren’t good at anything,” he said. “It was as frank as that.

“I am bitterly disappointed with the result. I’m also understanding it’s a first step for us as a new team.”

For those who believe England can defy the odds and would like to bet on Borthwick’s squad lifting the Six Nations Championship Trophy for the first time in three years, they are the third favourites at 16/1.

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