Steve Borthwick and his England players must show they’re on same page

England coach Steve Borthwick took charge before last year’s Six Nations (Picture: PA)

Steve Borthwick has often banged the drum over how 
his England team are in transition, firstly when he took the job and then again following last year’s World Cup.

There was merit to this argument but he has had 19 fixtures in charge, more than enough time for the England coach to get his fingerprints all over the squad and bring about change.

But against Scotland last Saturday, when England needed to chase the game as they trailed by nine points with 15 minutes to play, they still reverted to type – box-kicking and trying to impose an aerial battle on the opposition.

Is there a conflict of interests and thoughts between England’s head coach and his players? Is there a misalignment between their instincts and their coaches’ desires?

It is hard to know for sure but players who look comfortable in their own skin in the weekly roll-outs for their clubs appear unnerved and unsettled during 80 minutes on the international stage.

England’s lack of cut and thrust damaged them on a beautifully clear and calm afternoon at Murrayfield. It started so well, with a wonderfully constructed set-piece move followed by a George Ford penalty, leaving the Scottish crowd wondering if they were in fact favourites.

However, the more the game progressed, the higher the England error count until finally the wheels came off.

Duhan van der Merwe loves scoring tries for Scotland against England

Duhan van der Merwe loves scoring tries for Scotland against England (Picture: Shutterstock)

Turnovers and unforced mistakes are critical in any sport and even more so in rugby. To turn the ball over and lose possession is one thing, but to turn the ball over and concede is catastrophic.

England could not get their thought processes or attacking shape aligned, sometimes forcing passes in contact and at other times demonstrating a lack of fundamental skills required for Test-match rugby.

England captain Jamie George after England's defeat at Murrayfield

England captain Jamie George after England’s defeat at Murrayfield (Picture: AP)

This allowed Scotland to feast on some costly errors. Duhan van der Merwe seems to like playing against England, with a wonder try in last year’s fixture and now a hat-trick as he again underlined the crucial role he plays for Scotland as they bid to remove Ireland as Six Nations leaders.

If Scotland are chasing the title, then England are facing another tough Six Nations which looks like ending once more with only two victories.

Of course, playing at Test level is a huge step up from Premiership rugby, but there does seem to be a large disparity of performance. It leaves supporters wondering what England will do next. We heard much about entertainment and smiles on faces, but have sadly seen little of it.

It does not seem to be for a lack of trying but rather a lack of synchronisation between team and coaches. Is that due to England’s change of defensive coach and desire to attack lending itself to learning on the field?

Or does it run deeper than that, a conflict between the head honcho and his crew over how the game should be played? It is hard to be sure but, with Ireland and France to come, England must find a solution quickly if there is anything to be salvaged from this tournament.

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