By Mitch Phillips
LONDON – After years of Eddie Jones staking all his chips on the distant goal of the World Cup, new England coach Steve Borthwick has made it clear that “every game matters” and that his focus at the moment does not go beyond hosting Scotland on Feb. 4.
That is England’s opening game of the Six Nations Championship, which held its official launch in London on Monday, and Borthwick said he was raring to go having replaced Jones after the Australian was sacked in November.
“As you come in here you sense the excitement around the room,” he said. “I grew up watching the Five Nations – this is an incredible tournament.
“I had the privilege of playing in it then coaching as an assistant and now as a head coach. I’m excited, determined to get on the field and get started.”
The former captain and lock, who coached Leicester to the Premiership title last season, reiterated his aim of getting the supporters back behind the team after a series of poor results and dispiriting performances that led to Jones’s sacking.
“I’ve been asked a lot of questions about how little time we have to prepare because I’ve only been in the job a few weeks and I’ve been asked questions about injuries,” said Borthwick.
“There are players who are missing but we have a fantastic squad to coach, led by an incredible captain (Owen Farrell), who are desperate to get on the field and start producing performances that our team and supporters can be proud of.”
Farrell is back in the job full time after receiving a ringing endorsement from Borthwick and said with new attack and defence coaches Nick Evans and Kevin Sinfield in place, it felt like a new start for a team that finished third and fifth in the last two tournaments, managing four wins from 10 matches.
“We sit here now looking forward to getting together for the first time tonight, but we’re hugely excited about getting together, getting out on the field, training and getting on the same page so we can put all our excitement into that first game against Scotland,” said Farrell.
He will be available to lead the team out at Twickenham having served a three-game ban for a dangerous tackle, trimmed from four games after he attended “tackle school,” which Farrell said he found useful.
“It makes you look at what you could do better from the situation you were in in the first place and I’ve obviously had time to step back and have a look at that and learn from it,” he added.
“In terms of where the game is going and trying to make it safer and making sure it’s played in the right way, and being a good example for everybody, I think the game and the RFU are trying to make sure that it’s going in the right direction.
“We as an England team want to make sure we’re at the forefront of that and … we’re preparing in a way where we can play as hard as we possibly can, and make sure it’s as fair and safe as we possibly can too. I want to play a big part of that.”