England responded to their worst year of results since 2008 by sacking Eddie Jones as head coach, with Steve Borthwick expected to take over.
Here, the PA news agency has a look at Borthwick’s arrival ahead of the Six Nations if Jones’ former number two is lured away from Leicester.
Forging an identity
England have lost their way following a defeat in the 2019 World Cup final to South Africa. Muddled tactics and scattered rifle selection were exacerbated by the high turnover of behind-the-scenes staff, contributing to an identity crisis that took hold in the 2021 Six Nations. Beyond commitment and resilience, a confused team had no distinguishing characteristics and by the end of the recent fall series their fight had also petered out. Borthwick must immediately provide England with clarity on who and what they are.
Find a renewed sense of purpose
Once the identity of the team is established, a renewed sense of purpose needs to be established. In a departure from the Jones era, he puts World Cup talk aside and instead focuses on one goal: winning the Six Nations. A notable admission by Jones in the wake of the 30-29 loss to Argentina that opened the fall was that attention had been lost due to his scheduling for the world event in France which kicks off in nine months. Jones’ willingness to sacrifice everything to win the World Cup has been detrimental to the team and detrimental to the relationship with the fans, who pay high prices to see England succeed in the here and now.
Rebuild the foundation
It might not set your pulse racing, but restoring the traditional pillars of English strength in defense and in melee would provide a baseline to be tough to beat – and possibly more so. Both have become areas of concern over the past year. The defense is no longer the dominant force seen under John Mitchell, the assistant manager who departed 18 months ago, and the scrum was alarmingly vulnerable in the height of the autumn against South Africa, capping a poor year in this facet of set piece of England.
Stop the selection carousel
During his seven years in charge, Jones amassed 112 players, of which 14 made a single appearance. The Aussie was loyal to a core of senior and established artists but often cut and changed in the fringes. Experimenting in the selection is a valid part of the job, but at times it felt completely random, with players coming and going for no apparent reason, sometimes never to be seen again, and others inexplicably returning at a later time – just ask to Joe Marchant, Ben Earl and Ollie Lawrence.
Turn the attack back on
Nowhere is England’s malaise under Jones more evident than in attack. Scott Wisemantel, the excellent Australian forward coach who left after the 2019 World Cup, has never been adequately replaced, but 2022 has been particularly inconsistent with the ball in hand. At the heart of the matter is Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell’s directorial axis, which he fired only sporadically to beg the question of how long should England persist with a partnership built on promise alone? Borthwick can decide it’s either/or mid-flight and simplify the existing approach.