Steve Borthwick claims dismal pre-World Cup form is helping England squad

Work to do: Steve Borthwick  (Getty Images)
Work to do: Steve Borthwick (Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick has insisted he has full faith in his Test coaching set-up in the wake of one of England’s darkest days at Twickenham.

England slipped to a record-equalling low of eighth in the world rankings, with a first-ever defeat by Fiji at Twickenham.

Fiji dispatched Borthwick’s sorry England 30-22 in west London, with the Red Rose men losing to a current tier two Test team for the first time in their history.

England have conceded 30 tries in nine matches on head coach Borthwick’s watch, with defence specialist Kevin Sinfield clearly under intense scrutiny.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

New attack guru Richard Wigglesworth and scrum specialist Tom Harrison will also come under the microscope in what is now a bona fide crisis.

England must face Argentina in Marseille on Saturday, September 9 to open their Rugby World Cup campaign.

Borthwick insisted he is unfazed if the Pumas are now installed as favourites for that crucial Pool D encounter – and the former England captain maintained he has full faith in his coaching set-up and their approach.

“I’m very confident in all the people around the team, the players, the coaches, the management,” said Borthwick. “Today’s not the result or aspects of the performance that we wanted. We are all disappointed by that.

“Now what we need to do is ensure that in two weeks’ time the performance against Argentina is what’s required. We’ve got a very talented group of players that I’m sure will play exceptionally well against Argentina.”

Fiji stunned England with an exhibition of pace, power, flair, elan and accurate finishing. In effect all the elements that England lack. England ran in three tries of their own, but missed some 27 tackles and were again incoherent in every aspect.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Borthwick could find himself presiding over the worst England team in modern times unless a significant upturn can be found, and fast. The England boss insisted the adversity of three defeats in four matches this month has only brought his players and staff closer together.

Despite offering an appearance of calm in public, when asked if he is angry privately, Borthwick replied: “Everybody around the England team, the players, the coaches, the management, care deeply about the team, about English rugby.

“So we are very disappointed in the result today and aspects of the performance. We are very clear about what we need to do to move forward over the next two weeks.

“I think we’re very clear that today there are a couple of areas we need to address in the next two weeks, and we’ll make sure we’re ready for Argentina.

“In terms of the players, I’m very happy with the squad we’ve got, I think we’ve got a very talented group of players. The most important thing right now with the group we have, the players, the coaches, the management.

“I’ve been involved with other England teams before that, under pressure and in difficult circumstances, under adversity and some similar challenges to what we’ve faced in the last few weeks, have come apart.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

“What I sense is a group that’s coming even tighter together. We’re looking forward to France next week and we’re looking forward to getting into this World Cup.”

England must surely still be on course to reach the quarter-finals, given they have fortunately fallen into the easiest pool of the competition.

Japan are not the force of four years ago, while Chile’s minnow status cannot be ignored and Samoa may well have lost an edge come the final round of pool fixtures. Argentina are extremely dangerous and capable however, mixing physicality, speed, guile and raw finishing ability.

When asked how far off the world’s best England have now fallen, Borthwick replied: “Our focus is the game against Argentina in two weeks.

“It would be remiss to start talking about any other aspect than that game, and you wouldn’t expect me to focus on anything other than making sure the team is right to play against Argentina in two weeks.”

And quizzed if England are favourites for the Argentina match, Borthwick added: “It’s immaterial. That's not a point that I’m considering at any point and never do in any game.

“We are preparing to play a very good Argentina side that have just come out of the Rugby Championship. And we’ve got a very good group of players who are very determined to get the result we want against them.”