England head coach Steve Borthwick has vowed to continue with the team’s current tactical approach despite losing five of their last six Test matches going into the Rugby World Cup; England kick off their campaign against Argentina in Pool D on Saturday in Marseille (8pm UK time)
Last Updated: 05/09/23 7:55am
Steve Borthwick insists England will persist with their current tactics despite entering the Rugby World Cup on a losing run which has seen them installed as underdogs for their opener against Argentina.
Five defeats in six Tests, reduced expectations from outside the camp that the 2003 champions will make an impact in the tournament and they begin their campaign with a match against an Argentina team which defeated them at Twickenham for the first time since 2006 last November.
Borthwick’s team have been criticised for their statistics-based gameplan which places a high emphasis on kicking, but the head coach insists there is no time to change the approach.
“We always study the tactical elements of what we do,” said Borthwick, who replaced Eddie Jones as England boss following last year’s mixed Autumn Nations Series.
“I said when I came in, we need to build a way of playing and to have a consistent base. You can’t change everything from one week to another week, you need to have a way of playing you can build upon.
“Ideally you start building that post the last World Cup, as most other teams have. You have seen the growth of Ireland and France – these teams who have started building since then. We’re not one of them.
“We’ve been trying to build it over the past six months and in many ways, because the coaching team only came together 10 or 11 weeks ago, we’ve been trying to do this for 10 or 11 weeks.
“What I’ve been trying to do is strengthen the direction we’re going in and trying to get better at it. For us it’s continuing the growth and making the foundations stronger.”
Argentina go into this year’s World Cup two places higher in the world rankings and England know if they fall again to a Pumas side which beat them 30-29 last year, they will have no room for manoeuvre in their remaining Pool D fixtures.
Nevertheless, Borthwick is convinced England have the firepower to make an impact at the World Cup as they prepare for their opening match at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome on Saturday evening (8pm UK time).
“I look at this team and see the likes of Ellis Genge, Joe Marler, Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje – the list could go on,” Borthwick said.
“We’ve got players who know how to perform on the biggest occasions and that’s one of the central things we need to do this Saturday – perform together.”
“We’re going against a really good Argentina side, potentially the best side in their history. We know that’s a challenge but it’s one the boys can’t wait to get involved in.
“I can’t stress enough, coming to Le Touquet, being here – the World Cup’s really now begun. This is it. We are in it.”
Farrell: High tackle was a mistake
England will be without their captain Farrell for the match against Argentina as he serves the penultimate game of a four-match suspension for a red card in the warm-up game with Wales at Twickenham.
Farrell admitted the high tackle on Taine Basham, which eventually saw him banned after global governing body World Rugby appealed an independent panel’s initial decision to downgrade the offence from a red card to a yellow, was a mistake and is saddened to be missing the team’s first game of the World Cup.
“You don’t want to go back too far, and I don’t want to be sat here talking about this now,” said Farrell, speaking about the incident for the first time. “I want to be talking about the weekend.
“I made a mistake and got banned for it in the end. I’m not going to sit here and moan about it now.
“I’m excited for this World Cup to start. I’m excited to see what this team can do, and I look forward to being available again.
“I’m gutted not to be playing, and I’m gutted not to be available – especially a big game like this at the weekend.”
The 31-year-old will be available for England’s final two pool matches against World Cup debutants Chile, and Samoa.