England’s new head rugby coach Steve Borthwicksays his players are ‘suffering’ due to recent poor results under his predecessor, Eddie Jones, and has pledged to channel that pain into a strong Six Nations campaign.
Borthwick, 43, was confirmed in the role at Twickenham on Monday, signing a five-year deal after leaving Leicester Tigers, with Kevin Sinfield also leaving Welford Road to become England defense coach. Borthwick plans to recruit the rest of his backroom team in the coming weeks.
The former second line’s contract is set to last until after the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, but his priority is to prepare for the Six Nations, with England starting their campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on February 4 .
“What strikes me is how much the players are suffering,” Borthwick said. “I know how much they are hurting because they care, they really care, they mean well. What we need to do is make sure the pain they are feeling, we turn that around from the start of the Six Nations and put everything we have into performance on the pitch.
Before joining Leicester, where he won the Premiership last season, Borthwick worked as a forwards coach with the senior England team under Jones and also worked with the Australian for the Japan national team before the Cup. 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Borthwick’s playing career included 10 years at Bath and six seasons with Saracens. He became England captain in 2008, when Martin Johnson was head coach. He won 57 international caps and played nearly 400 domestic matches before retiring from playing in 2014.
Borthwick said his appointment so close to the World Cup was not ideal, but on reflection he felt the time was right.
“I thought deeply about things and looked at all the different factors,” he said. “It was definitely a timing consideration, I don’t think anyone thinks the timing is ideal. I also think there’s incredible excitement around it among the players. I think the potential for the team is huge. There are certainly things that need to be acted on… but with the potential [we have] that’s exciting.”
After introducing Borthwick in his new role, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney insisted he had not considered his own position following the decision to sack Jones so late in the Cup cycle of the world.
Asked if he was the man to lead English rugby, Sweeney said: “I love this job. I think it’s a privilege to do it. This can sometimes be quite demanding… I believe I have the full support of the Board. It’s not my decision to make, if someone else thinks differently…
“He [the RFU chair Tom Ilube] said something recently about full executive support. So I’m going to take that as his confidence.
Sweeney also said the decision to replace Jones was solely based on the results and denied that his personal relationship with Jones had become an issue. “The decision and the conversation with the review panel was about performance on the playing field,” Sweeney said. “That said, you don’t want to hear boos at Twickenham. Nobody likes to lose and the fans are crucial to us.
On the potential line-up of Borthwick’s backroom squad, Sweeney said: “Within a certain amount of reasonableness, we support him in terms of what he wants to do.”
After the opening Six Nations match in Scotland, England meet Italy at Twickenham eight days later, before a trip to Wales on 25 February. On March 11, the Borthwick team will face France at home, before a final trip to Dublin on March 18.
In an interview with French newspaper Midi Olympique on Monday, Jones revealed he fears his dismissal could be imminent during the recent autumn internationals.
Referring to a meeting with RFU officials ahead of the draw with New Zealand at Twickenham last month, Jones said: “I felt the atmosphere was weird… I felt the end was in sight.”