SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: At last an England team with real pace

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: At last an England team with real pace… what a contrast to the Eddie Jones era! Led by Owen Farrell and featuring the likes of Freddie Steward and Ollie Hassell-Collins, this is one I’d have liked to have coached

  • Steve Borthwick’s first squad selection provided a stark contrast to Jones era
  • He has picked form Premiership players who are capable of playing at real pace 
  • The heach coach also made right call by making Farrell captain for Six Nations 

This first squad selection of England’s new era under Steve Borthwick proves not only that he wants to pick a team with pace, but also promises a stark contrast to the Eddie Jones era.

Jones would never have named the likes of Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Earl for the Six Nations, as Borthwick did. Under the Australian, England became far too slow from one to 15.

To win a World Cup, England can’t rely on brute power alone. They are not South Africa. There must be a speed and dynamism to the players who are selected.

This first squad selection by Steve Borthwick provided a stark contrast to the Eddie Jones era

England’s overall approach and gameplan needed to change radically, which is why I’m so pleased by Borthwick’s selection. It is very positive. I was Jones’ No 1 fan up until the week of the 2019 World Cup final. England got their preparation for that game in Yokohama badly wrong. There were distractions everywhere and the team, as well as Jones, never recovered.

Borthwick has instantly delivered a fresh vibrancy to the England set-up with new players and a new coaching team. It means I’m hugely excited about the Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland in the first round of the Six Nations. That would not have been the case if Jones had still been in charge.

There will be an anticipation and excitement at Twickenham on February 4 and that hasn’t been the case for the last few years. Simply, Borthwick has picked form Premiership players who are all capable of playing at real pace. Hopefully, they will be selected in their correct positions.

Borthwick was right to name Owen Farrell (above) as captain for the Six Nations

Hassell-Collins, Earl and Ben Curry have earned selection on the back of their domestic exploits and that is how it should be. Dan Cole is back at the age of 35 after playing very well for Leicester Tigers. I don’t mind that at all. It shows age is no barrier and that form is rewarded.

Borthwick’s decision to make Owen Farrell captain is the right one and I would absolutely have him starting at No 10 during the Six Nations. He must begin the Scotland game there.

The best I saw England play under Jones was when Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade filled the 10, 12 and 13 shirts respectively. Hopefully, we can see that trio reunited in midfield. Tuilagi needs to step up and use all his skills. He must not be just a battering ram. Tuilagi is currently not at his best and if Borthwick was picking on form he’d be behind Dan Kelly. But hopefully he can be revived by having Farrell and Slade either side of him.

Ollie Hassell-Collins (above), Earl and Ben Curry have earned selection on back of club form

There has been a lot of talk about Farrell after his recent ban. Rugby’s disciplinary process is making the game look ridiculous. The sport is making itself a hostage to fortune and leaving itself open for criticism. Farrell has been at the centre of the debate, but this is not about him or any individual.

Rugby needs to find real clarity and get away from the idea that bans can be reduced by taking a tackling course, admitting guilt, or having good previous behaviour. It’s embarrassing.

The good news for Borthwick is Farrell can play against Scotland. That’s all he will be focusing on and all he can do as a coach.

As expected, veteran Tigers prop Dan Cole has been brought back in to the set-up

Borthwick’s appointment is both the present and the future with England but Australia have made a seriously big call by going back to Jones. The decision made me smile because Jones’ return to the international arena does add extra spice to what is already a huge World Cup year.

He will be a man on a mission. His last three years with England have taken a lot of the aura away from him but if I was in charge of Australian rugby, I’d have made exactly the same call.

Like many others, I have been very critical of Jones as England were going backwards and fast in every aspect of the game, but he is excellent at getting a team into shape in double-quick time.

There is now the mouth-watering prospect of Jones possibly coaching against Borthwick’s England at the World Cup. England were right to get rid of Jones, but if he comes back to haunt them then big questions will still be asked of the RFU and chief executive Bill Sweeney. There will be finger-pointing if England get knocked out of the tournament by Jones’ Australia.

If that happens, Sweeney would be very exposed because the logical thing to have done when sacking Jones would have been to place him on gardening leave or ensure he couldn’t join a rival.

It didn’t happen, but that is for the future and Borthwick and England must focus on the Six Nations first.

I’m looking forward to seeing his team play. Beat Scotland and then Italy at Twickenham and England will have real momentum, which is so important. A team led by Farrell and with the likes of Freddie Steward, Tuilagi, Slade and Hassell-Collins is one I’d have liked to have coached.

It’s a new dawn in English rugby. I’m looking forward to it.

OUR EXPERTS’ TEAMS FOR SIX NATIONS OPENER

Sir Clive Woodward

15. Freddie Steward

14. Ollie Hassell-Collins

13. Henry Slade

12. Manu Tuilagi

11. Cadan Murley

10. Owen Farrell (c)

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Courtney Lawes

6. Jack Willis

7. Ben Earl

8. Alex Dombrandt

Chris Foy

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Henry Slade

12. Manu Tuilagi

11. Elliot Daly

10. Owen Farrell (c)

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Courtney Lawes

7. Jack Willis

8. Sam Simmonds

Alex Bywater

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Henry Slade

12. Manu Tuilagi

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Owen Farrell (c)

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Courtney Lawes

7. Ben Earl

8. Sam Simmonds

Nik Simon

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Elliot Daly

12. Dan Kelly

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Owen Farrell (c)

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Courtney Lawes

7. Jack Willis

8. Alex Dombrandt

 




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