Borthwick says he inherited Eddie's leftover 'junk'
REACTION: Steve Borthwick said the England team he took over from Eddie Jones “weren’t good at anything” following a defeat in his first match in charge.
Borthwick’s reign as England coach started with a dramatic 23-29 loss to Scotland in a Six Nations opener at Twickenham on Saturday.
The new England boss had only had 11 days’ training time with the squad after coaching mentor Jones was sacked following a poor November series that capped England’s worst year since 2008.
“I’ve been frank from day one in saying there’s a lot of work to do,” insisted Borthwick.
“When I looked at the team in November, when I measured the team and got all the data for the team, we weren’t good at anything. It was as frank as that.”
England now faces Italy, fresh from a gutsy 29-24 loss to Grand Slam champions France, in the second round, with Borthwick accepting his side remains a work in progress seven months out from the start of the World Cup.
“We are trying to build some strengths in this team and some bits we are pleased about and some bits we are disappointed about,” he said.
“My job is to make sure we get some improvements for Italy.”
The former England captain added: “There are multiple areas we have tried to change. You saw some improvement in the scrum against Scotland which I was pleased about because it has been ranked as the worst scrum in tier-one [leading nations] rugby.
“We saw some improvements in the attack and speed of the ball and we tried to improve the breakdown where England was ranked the ninth quickest, so one of the slowest in tier one.”
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Meanwhile, defence chief Kevin Sinfield, who worked with Borthwick when he coached Leicester to the Premiership title last season, will have been concerned by the way England missed five tackles on Duhan van der Merwe while the Scotland wing was running in a brilliant solo try from fully 55 metres out.
“In terms of the way we hit in defence, there were improvements there but there were a couple of tries which Scotland took brilliantly, which is an immense credit to them,” said Borthwick.
“I have asked the players to play a new way. I have got to get the players to believe in themselves and get the players to bring their strengths to the pitch.”
Defeats by Argentina and South Africa, allied to a fortunate draw with New Zealand, sealed the end of veteran Australian coach Jones’ eight-year spell in charge of England.
Experienced hooker Jamie George accepted “something wasn’t quite working” late last year under Jones, now the coach of his native Australia for a second time.
“We want to take England rugby back to the top and we’re aware that it hasn’t been good enough, especially in the autumn,” said George.
“Eddie took the brunt of it in terms of losing his job, but at the same time we were the people on the field. So we have to take accountability for it too.”