‘Players hurt’: Steve Borthwick aims to revive England in the Six Nations

New England rugby coach Steve Borthwick has said his players are “hurting” as a result of recent poor results under his predecessor, Eddie Jones, and has vowed to channel that pain into a strong Six Nations campaign.

The 43-year-old Borthwick’s role at Twickenham was confirmed on Monday, signing a five-year contract after leaving Leicester Tigers, with Kevin Sinfield also leaving Ford Road to become England’s defence-coach. Borthwick plans to recruit the rest of his team backstage in the coming weeks.

The former second-rower’s contract is set to run until after the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, but his priority is to prepare for the Six Nations, as England begin their campaign against Scotland at Twickenham on February 4.

“The thing that amazes me is the amount of damage players take,” Borthwick said. “I know how much they get hurt because they care, really care, and want to do a good job. What we need to do is make sure the pain they’re in, and we’ve been turning that around since the Six Nations started, putting everything we’ve got into performing on the field.”

Prior to joining Leicester, where they won the Premier League last season, Borthwick worked as an attacking coach with the England senior team under Jones and also worked with the Australian national team for Japan ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Borthwick’s career included 10 years at Bath and six seasons with Saracens. He became England captain in 2008, when Martin Johnson was head coach. He won 57 international matches and played nearly 400 domestic matches before retiring from football in 2014.

Borthwick said his date with the World Cup approaching wasn’t ideal, but on reflection, he felt the time was right.

Steve Borthwick with CEO of the Russian Federation, Bill Sweeney (left), and Tom Elop, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Russian Federation, at Twickenham. Photo: Alex Davidson/RFU/Getty Images

“I thought deeply about things and looked at all the different factors,” he said. “That was certainly a consideration of timing, I don’t think anyone thinks the timing is perfect. I also think there’s incredible excitement around this among the players. I think the potential of the team is huge. There are definitely some things to act upon…but with a measure potential [we have] it is exciting.”

After Borthwick was introduced in his new position, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney insisted he had not considered his role following the decision to sack Jones so late in the World Cup cycle.

When asked if he was the man to lead English rugby, Sweeney said: “I love this job. I think it’s a privilege to do it. It can be demanding at times… I think I’ve had the full support of the board. It’s not my decision.” If someone else thinks differently…

“he is [the RFU chair Tom Ilube] He said something recently about fully supporting the executive branch. So I will take it as his confidence.”

Sweeney also said the decision to replace Jones was based solely on results, and denied that his personal relationship with Jones had become an issue. “The decision and the conversation with the review committee was about performance on the field of play,” said Sweeney. “Having said that, you don’t want to hear the boos at Twickenham. Nobody likes to lose and the fans are very important to us.”

On the potential makeup of Borthwick’s backroom team, Sweeney said: “Within certain reasonable limits, we support him in terms of what he wants to do.”

After opening the Scottish Six Nations, England meet Italy at Twickenham eight days later, before a trip to Wales on 25 February. On 11 March, Borthwick’s side face France at home, before a closing trip to Dublin on 18 March.

On Monday, in an interview with French newspaper Medi Olympique, Jones revealed that he feared his sacking was imminent during the recent fall internationals.

Referring to a meeting with RFU officials ahead of the draw with New Zealand at Twickenham last month, Jones said: “I had a sense that the atmosphere was strange… I had a sense that the end was near.”

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