Steve Borthwick has made an impassioned plea for the Twickenham boo boys to get behind his new England side in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland.
England have lost their last two meetings with Scotland and were booed off at full time of their last match at Twickenham in November, but as Borthwick launches his tenure as head coach he has urged supporters to wipe the slate clean.
England have not beaten Scotland at Twickenham since 2017 and have prevailed in only one of the ensuing five encounters. History further shows the importance of Saturday’s fixture with both Stuart Lancaster, in 2012, and Eddie Jones, seven years ago, beginning their reigns with narrow victories over Scotland.
Given their recent record, Borthwick is expecting a “confident” Scotland to arrive at Twickenham and acknowledged that there will be mistakes from his side, which features eight changes to the one which started the dismal defeat by South Africa in November.
Borthwick has called on the Twickenham faithful to forgive England’s autumn woes. “I ask them to be behind this team,” said Borthwick. “This is the first step in this next chapter of the England team. This is a group of players that care so much about England. I know I do, so I ask [supporters] to get behind this team and lift this team, as they always do.
“There will be mistakes but I want the players fighting, getting to the next battle, bringing all the strengths they have into the England shirt on that pitch. And I think the players will show that fight and that determination. We want to make the supporters proud and want the players to be proud of the team. Our players are determined to play with the fight, the commitment, that our fans expect and deserve.
“The message I give to them will be a pretty simple one in the sense that, in every single study I ever read, the impact of home support is worth more than any one player.”
The forwards coach, Richard Cockerill, acknowledged that England will be far from the finished article given the limited preparation time they have had since Borthwick took the reins. Whereas Jones became preoccupied with the World Cup later this year, Cockerill is adamant that reclaiming the Calcutta Cup is the focus.
“We’re here to win, first and foremost,” said Cockerill. “It’s the most important thing and what we get judged on. We want to see signs of what we’ve been working on and how we build our game. I’ll take the win because that’s what we’re here for. Playing for England and coaching England is all about winning. But I have a feeling it won’t be 3-0. We want to be a positive team who play a positive brand of rugby that wins the game.”
Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie has admitted he does not know what to expect from England’s new-look side under Borthwick as they seek to extend their unbeaten run at Twickenham to three matches.
Scotland have won their last two matches against England, having ended their 38-year wait for a victory at Twickenham in 2021 before edging past Eddie Jones’s side at Murrayfield last year. In 2019 they mounted a dramatic comeback in a thrilling 38-38 draw, ensuring they have not lost in southwest London since 2017.
With Borthwick at the England helm, however, and launching his tenure on Saturday, Ritchie admits Scotland’s return to Twickenham is a step into the unknown.
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“I don’t really know what to expect,” said Ritchie. “Which is quite nice as well because it’s allowed us to focus more on ourselves. Will it be similar to how Leicester play? I don’t know. The backbone of that team is quite similar and they like to play in a certain way. We expect them to be physical as always and it’ll be a good game, I’m sure.”
Asked what he puts Scotland’s impressive recent record against England down to, Ritchie added: “Good performances. In the game last year we played really well, we defended really well. The game the year before we were really comfortable, I felt that we negated what they were looking to do and we’re confident that we can have a strong performance [on Saturday] as well.
“Most of my memories [of the 2021 victory] are being in the changing room afterwards and how good that was, where we were in the world at the time, having the ability to be doing what we were doing and spending a lot of time together and having that opportunity to represent our nation was really special. I just remember there being a real togetherness.” – Guardian