Not a total failure but Borthwick’s England need to get up to speed


Scotland’s Duhan Van der Merwe, right, races through to score Scotland’s second try (Picture: Getty)

England’s new start was full of hope, but too mixed in with bundles of nervous energy.

That nervousness was palpable as Marcus Smith lofted the ball high into the cold Twickenham air. The crowd was stunningly silent and unsure if it should be them or the England players who should fire the starter gun to lift the noise and energy.

Almost 15 minutes passed before there were urging cries for England to charge into a counter-attack opportunity. In the stadium there was an obvious sense of uneasiness of who was to act first.

So, Scotland took the opportunity, through a wonderful piece of skill from their centre pairing of Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu to unlock England’s defence and leave the players on the pitch as subdued as the fans off it.

England were far from bad, but too far from fantastic, and credit must go to Scotland, a team winning their fourth Calcutta Cup in the last five matches, seized on the Twickenham apprehension and put the opposition to the sword in fine style.


If Scotland’s first try was good their second through the scorching run of Duhan Van der Merwe will go down in history as one of the greatest in this game. Scything through the England defence, the giant wing showed balance and power in equal measure, leaving England defenders in his wake, with even the audacity to shrug off Alex Dombrandt, England’s colossal number eight, with disregard seven metres from the line.

A pensive England boss Borthwick (Picture: Shutterstock)

It was an astonishing run, and fuelled Scotland’s belief of victory even more.

England did come back into the game, and there was much to be admired from a side who new coach Steve Borthwick felt would not have responded as such even two months ago under his predecessor Eddie Jones, but to lose from a position of 20-12 in a Calcutta Cup match is still a worrying sign.

England under Borthwick have much to do – under his own admission the side he inherited ‘were not good at anything’ – and a coach driven by data, stats and the knowledge he can glean from them knows that if they are to be competitive in this year’s World Cup they must improve in several areas. The biggest cause for concern right now is England’s ruck speed; it is still slow, and for a team that has such potential weaponry in its armoury is highly frustrating.

The pressure is on for England to pick up pace following Eddie Jones’ departure (Picture: PA)

International rugby is built on the foundations of good players who make good decisions, those decisions become easier with quick ball, as defences are less organised, and under more duress. Scotland looked far from that on the weekend, filling the field in defence and targeting breakdowns smartly to stifle England’s attack.

All is not lost for England. Italy come to Twickenham this Sunday and it gives a chance for Borthwick and his staff to rectify some issues.

The Azzurri, however, are far from a guaranteed win, as they may have been in the past. They pushed France close last weekend and will be desperate to create history as the first Italian team to beat England.

Without doubt, the post-Eddie Jones era has started with a bit of a whimper and the pressure is on.

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