Borthwick demands explanation for England’s ‘hot potato’ collapse

  • Coach frustrated by Six Nations defeat in Scotland
  • Itoje: ‘We probably didn’t stick with the gameplan’

Steve Borthwick wants answers from his England players as to why they fell apart against Scotland, and he will conduct a grisly postmortem this week with Maro Itoje blaming the capitulation on switching to “tip-tap rugby” and playing “hot potato” at Murrayfield.

England will hold a “thorough and honest” review when they reconvene in York on Wednesday and Borthwick admitted he could not understand why his players let slip a 10-0 lead to succumb to a fourth successive Calcutta Cup defeat. George Furbank’s opening try gave England the perfect start but a litany of errors followed and they turned the ball over 22 times across the match.

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Murrayfield showdown a defining moment for England and Scotland

Significance of Calcutta Cup encounter is elevated to higher plane with both sides standing at a crossroads in their development

Some games are bigger than others and this year’s Calcutta Cup encounter sits firmly in that category. The World Cup may have been and gone but, for reasons both ancient and modern, the 142nd edition of rugby’s oldest international fixture feels more significant than usual. A defining encounter awaits all concerned, in the short and medium terms.

In differing ways Scotland and England have reached a fork in their developmental paths. Get it satisfyingly right and the high road beckons. Stumble and a whole host of thorny old questions will swiftly resurface, particularly for the visitors to Murrayfield. Narrow wins over Italy and Wales are one thing but the acid test of the latest Red Rose incarnation has arrived.

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England must show belief in blitz defence to handle Finn Russell’s threat | Ugo Monye

Scotland’s fly-half has the ability to force individual errors and his speed of thought will be a huge test for unbeaten visitors

The most decisive factor in Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match can be summed up in one word: belief. England have to believe in their blitz defensive system, they have to show confidence in it even when mistakes happen and they have to keep doing that for 80 minutes. Because they can be certain that Finn Russell has belief in bucket-loads and an uncanny ability to move on from mistakes in an instant.

Make no mistake, mastering a brand new defensive system is difficult, all the more so in the middle of a Six Nations championship. I first encountered a blitz defence at Harlequins in 2005 and that was the year we were relegated. There were other factors that contributed but the way that our defence performed was certainly one of them.

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Marler and England fed up of Scotland celebrations in most ‘spiteful’ fixture

  • Marler wants to end rivals’ Calcutta Cup dominance
  • Jamie George: ‘Senior players will step up’ in Six Nations

England players have had enough of having to watch Scotland celebrate their recent Calcutta Cup successes, with Joe Marler insisting his side are braced for what he believes is their most “spiteful” fixture of all.

Scotland have held the Calcutta Cup since 2021 having won the past three Six Nations fixtures between the two sides while England have prevailed only once in their last six meetings. Steve Borthwick believes Scotland are “clear favourites” for Saturday’s match, demonstrating just how much the tables have turned, bearing in mind England held the trophy from 2009 to 2018.

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‘Biggest rugby fan on earth’: Jamie George vows to honour late mother

  • England captain will continue to lead team as they face Scotland
  • George says making family proud was ‘huge driver’ for him

Jamie George has revealed he learned his mum had been diagnosed with cancer on the day he was offered the England captaincy, ­paying her a powerful tribute and vowing to do her proud against Scotland after she passed away last week.

George described his mum, Jane, as “the biggest rugby fan on earth” and explained how England’s opening Six Nations victories against Wales and Italy were the only two of his Test appearances she had missed, as a result of her illness. George said that Jane was diagnosed around seven weeks ago, but that he discovered she was terminally ill with lung ­cancer last Sunday and she died last Wednesday.

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‘Cookies and a sauna’: Danny Care hungry for 99th cap and Scotland

Scrum-half’s unique approach to career longevity has served him well as Steve Borthwick leans on his experience

Few players have heard more Calcutta Cup bagpipes over the years than Danny Care. His first Six Nations encounter with Scotland was in 2009 and the meeting on Saturday will be his 99th Test appearance for England. If any of the scrum‑half’s younger colleagues want first‑hand advice about Murrayfield and how to survive it, they need look no further.

It is among the reasons why the 37‑year‑old is still in the national squad; Steve Borthwick wanted a few seasoned individuals to set the tone for future generations. The boy Danny is now an elder statesman picked for his experience of high-pressure environments, particularly after Ben Youngs’s Test retirement and the untimely knee injury sustained last week by Northampton’s Alex Mitchell.

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Big hitters return as England look to power their way to Calcutta Cup glory

  • Manu Tuilagi, Ollie Lawrence and George Martin back in squad
  • England’s Bath contingent hatch plan to contain Finn Russell

England head to Scotland for­­ ­Saturday’s crucial Calcutta Cup clash boosted by heavyweight power, according to Kevin Sinfield who said his side are braced for “niggle” from their opponents at Murrayfield.

Steve Borthwick has Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence at his disposal again to power up his midfield after both missed England’s opening two matches with groin and hip injuries respectively. The hard-hitting Leicester forward George Martin is also available again for his first Test appearance since his stunning display in England’s narrow World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa last October.

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The Breakdown | O’Shea faces up to task of resolving structural future for English rugby

Rugby Football Union’s director of performance is focused on improving domestic system to provide sustainable pathway

Is English rugby making the most of the talent available to it? The question is a direct one and, to Conor O’Shea’s credit, he does not duck it. “The simple answer is no,” replies the Rugby Football Union’s director of performance, sitting in the national squad’s hotel in Bagshot on a Monday morning. In the middle of a Six Nations championship, with a major Calcutta Cup clash looming, the Murrayfield outcome is currently not the only issue focusing minds around Twickenham.

Where to start? Late on Friday the RFU confirmed a six-week deadline has now been set for a workable set of minimum standards to be agreed with those clubs just below the Premiership, with a view to kickstarting a recast second tier in autumn 2025. Along with untangling the knotty issues of promotion, relegation, funding and player development pathways, there has to be a solid basic governance framework underpinning it all. Six weeks? Historically those things have taken years.

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RFU ditches plan to sell Twickenham and buy 50% share of Wembley

  • £663m overhaul of current stadium is focus, Guardian can reveal
  • Masterplan targets 2027 as preferred date for revamp work

The Rugby Football Union has ditched a radical proposal to sell Twickenham and buy a 50% share of Wembley from the Football Association, the Guardian can reveal, instead focusing on £663m plans to overhaul its current stadium.

Twickenham has served as the home of English rugby since 1909 and while the RFU is formulating plans to revamp the stadium as part of its “masterplan programme”, last year the union’s board approved a recommendation to retain an option to “leave” but to “defer formal engagement with the FA”.

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Dan Cole stands test of time to help England move in new direction

Loyalty to Steve Borthwick played role in prolonging prop’s international career and 36-year-old is thriving in young squad

The smell of freshly cut Twickenham grass emanates from Dan Cole when he sits down, sporting training kit and clutching a pair of boots, in a windowless room beneath the home of English rugby. Having ticked off the first session of another demanding week in international camp the prop easily pivots from the training field to fielding questions from the gaggle of writers huddled around him.

Tucking the black leather boots under his chair, Cole proceeds to bat back the ensuing inquiries with the confidence and humour of a player who has been there, seen it and done it in elite rugby. The 36-year-old’s England journey is a story well told; particularly the narrative arc from a difficult 2019 Rugby World Cup final against South Africa, to a phenomenal individual display in the one-point defeat by the Boks in last year’s semi-final.

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‘We were ready for a war’: Scotland’s 2018 win turned tables on auld enemy

Huge 25-13 victory with ‘mercurial’ Finn Russell providing the Murrayfield cheer ended the one-way traffic against England

It is an immutable law of the Six Nations that everyone loves beating England. It follows that everyone hates losing to them, and Scotland lost to the auld enemy a lot in the previous decade. No one knew it at the time, but England’s 2009 win at Twickenham was a result that ushered in 10 years of Scottish pain. Ugo Monye, Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait scored tries for the hosts, captained by Steve Borthwick, while the scrum-half Danny Care added a drop goal in a 26-12 victory.

Granted, the reunion at Murrayfield a year later finished 15-15, Scotland’s dynamic back row excelling in an encounter the hosts arguably deserved to win, as Ben Youngs came off the bench for his international debut. But after that, whether it was Martin Johnson, Stuart Lancaster or Eddie Jones in charge, England simply seemed to have Scotland’s number.

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Felix Jones lauds game breaking ability of England fly-half Marcus Smith

  • Smith back in training squad for Scotland match after injury
  • Jones: ‘He can do things a lot of other players can’t’

The England assistant coach, Felix Jones, has praised the game breaking ability of the fly-half Marcus Smith, saying he can “do things a lot of other players can’t”.

Having planned ways to stop the Harlequins No 10 while working for the Springboks, Jones now forms part of a coaching team trying to maximise the 25-year-old’s considerable talent.

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‘He looked good’: England optimistic over Tuilagi fitness as squad bolstered

  • Manu Tuilagi, Luke Cowan‑Dickie and George Martin called up
  • ‘We’ll know more as each day goes by, but ­everyone looked fine’

England have bolstered their options for the Six Nations game against ­Scotland on Saturday week by ­naming Manu Tuilagi, Luke Cowan‑Dickie and George Martin in a strengthened 36‑man training squad.

Tuilagi and Cowan-Dickie, both of Sale Sharks, and the Leicester second‑row Martin are set to be ­available for the Calcutta Cup fixture at ­Murrayfield, when England aim to make it three wins from three in the tournament this year.

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The Breakdown | Hitting the Wonderwall: Twickenham struggles to make own entertainment

Rugby union has become another sport that seems confused about how to satisfy existing fans while attracting new ones

After the US invasion of Panama in 1989, it took their army 10 days to persuade the dictator Manuel Noriega to come out of his hiding place in the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See. Their soldiers famously surrounded the building with loudspeakers and played, among other things, AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long, Van Halen’s Panama, and Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up day and night, until Noriega lost the will to resist. Five minutes into the half-time interval at Twickenham last Saturday, the thought occurred that they could perhaps have got the job done a lot quicker if, like the RFU, it had hired stadium DJ Tony Perry instead.

Which is nothing against Perry, whose act must be just the thing if you’re four tequilas deep on Ocean Beach in Ibiza. Somehow, though, it doesn’t quite go over so well when England are nine points down against Wales and you and your grandfather are trying to talk about whether or not the referee was right to give that scrum penalty while shuffling through the queue for the loos at Twickenham on a freezing cold afternoon in February.

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Fraser Dingwall try helps edge England to comeback win against Wales

  • England 16-14 Wales
  • Earl and Dingwall lead hosts’ recovery from 14-5 down

Wales have not won a Six Nations game at Twickenham since 2012 and that barren record continues. Until the final quarter of a fluctuating contest, though, it was England who were nervously staring into the abyss. Steve Borthwick’s side are managing to find ways to win tight games but, for the second successive weekend, the final margin was way too close for comfort.

On this occasion England, 14-5 down at the interval, were indebted to a penalty from George Ford with eight minutes remaining as well as a 62nd-minute try from Fraser Dingwall, playing in just his second Test. Until the final quarter the hosts had displayed only sporadic signs of attacking fluency but, finally, via a juggling catch and offload from Elliot Daly and a gleeful finish from Dingwall in the left corner their relieved supporters had something to shout about.

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