Nick Evans insists England will not suffer ‘death by detail’ in forging new Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell plan

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Nick Evans has pledged Steve Borthwick’s England will avoid “death by detail” through ushering in a clear, effective new Test match strategy.

Harlequins assistant Evans will be on loan to England for the Six Nations, acting as new England boss Borthwick’s attack specialist.

The former New Zealand fly-half revealed England’s players have told new head coach Borthwick that the gameplan lacked clarity in the final throes of Eddie Jones’ regime.

Jones was sacked in December after just five wins in 12 Tests in 2022, with Borthwick due to take the reins for the first time in the Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4.

Evans insisted England can find a way to see Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell thrive at fly-half and inside centre, but conceded that combination could only flourish through greater delineation of responsibilities.

“We don’t get much time, we’ve got a week and then we’re playing Scotland,” said Evans. “There’s not a lot of time on the training field, so the information needs to be really clear, and direct.

“They need to go on the field and have a really clear understanding of, ‘In these areas I know exactly how we want to play’. Sometimes the old death by detail can be a thing, the overcomplication of things.

“There’s just not enough time to change everything, and I don’t think everything needs changing.

“My focus is around bringing energy when we have ball in hand, and bringing clarity around ball in hand, and working closely with Kevin Sinfield around the opposite side of the ball. And then obviously around how we kick and how we exit.”

Jones’ seven-year England tenure came to a confusing end in the autumn, where just one win in four Tests led to the taskmaster Australian coach’s sacking.

England had spent the final year of Jones’ reign fighting to expand their attacking game, trying to create a plethora of options on the gainline when on the ball. The transition rarely worked however, leaving England appearing stuck between two approaches.

Borthwick has taken the helm amid a mandate of providing a simple but effective framework for the Six Nations, with the World Cup already looming large in the autumn.

Evans believes Smith and Farrell can cut the Test mustard at 10 and 12, but anticipates a less cluttered approach will be vital to achieving that synergy.

“You look at Saracens and Quins, they tend to play in a slightly different way from us,” said Evans.

“That goes back to how you use your 10s and that goes back to the different make-up of the teams. Sarries have a completely different make-up from us, forward pack, backline and 10s and nines and things. So you’re going to have different structures there.

“There is no reason why they can’t play together, there is no reason. But you have to be very clear, and again it comes back to that piece around clarity, in what are we trying to achieve, how are we doing this, how does that go about, what does that detail look like. And then once everyone is clear on that then you can go forward.

"Some of the feedback was that that maybe wasn’t there, so maybe there was a bit of a crossover. And I think we find that at Quins in certain positions as well.

“So it’s just making sure that you’re very clear on roles and responsibilities. So there’s no reason why, and it will align to how we want to play the game, and in form, and all that kind of stuff.”