Borthwick acknowledges Eddie Jones’s role as coaching mentor

England forwards coach says role with Lions tour next summer ‘would be an honour’

Steve Borthwick spoke about how much he owed to Eddie Jones, who hired him once to be his forwards coach when he was working with Japan, and then again when he took charge of the England team. "He has been phenomenal for me as a young coach developing," Borthwick said. "I have an awful lot to learn, but I feel very fortunate that I've got a head coach like him."

For all Jones has apparently taught Borthwick, he might also pass on a few tips about how best to handle the press, a part of the job that Jones relishes but Borthwick approaches with all the enthusiasm of a man on his way to the dentist to get a cavity drilled.

Borthwick offered no comment, other than "it would be an honour", on reports that Warren Gatland has asked him to help coach the British and Irish Lions next summer; no comment, other than "he's one of the players who is in the frame for selection", on whether or not George Kruis was going to come back into the England team now that he has recovered from the ankle surgery he had last month; and no comment, other than "it's an ongoing thing", on Joe Launchbury's citing for kicking Asaeli Tikoirotuma in the head during Saturday's match against Fiji. All of which made for a most enlightening press conference.

Drilling forwards

Fortunately for England, Borthwick is rather better at the more important business of drilling forwards in how to run a lineout, which is why they have won 37 in a row during their last three Tests.


"I think it is pretty obvious what he has done for our lineout," said Mako Vunipola, who played alongside Borthwick at Saracens, and is coached by him now. "He was a great lineout caller – one of the best that ever played. As a player he was like an extra coach out there. If the opposition changed plans, then he was able to adapt on the field, work out what we needed to do to get the ball back, and I think that's what he's done with us here."

Borthwick has only been a full-time coach for four years, so the Lions job has come along quickly for him. Vunipola isn’t surprised. “He picks up on anything, the smallest little things make a massive little difference to him. And he’s all about the basics: get them right first and then everything else will come along with it.”

Vunipola explained that Borthwick had helped him adjust the position of his feet to improve his lifting. He also explained that Borthwick “makes it very easy for us, even though he has that level of detail, he makes it very easy for us to understand”.

Very easy

“As a player he just made it very easy for me to do my role,” Vunipola said. And as a coach, the same thing goes. Vunipola believes that’s why “the new boys who have come into the squad have bedded in really easily and not really looked out of place at the set piece”.

Bath’s Charlie Ewels, who made his debut during the final 15 minutes of the Fiji match, would be the most obvious example. “It was great to see him make his debut,” said Borthwick. “It’s an area of the team that has got a lot of competition, so for a young man like him to have got onto the field, he’s deserved that opportunity.”

Ewels's Bath team-mate Dave Attwood has also been called into the training camp. So even though Maro Itoje is injured and Launchbury is now banned for the remaining two autumn internationals against Argentina this Saturday and Australia on December 3rd, lock is an area where England now have real strength in depth.

Guardian Service