Sir Clive Woodward: Ex-England boss takes swipe at Eddie Jones and offers bold Steve Borthwick prediction

Sir Clive Woodward looks on. Credit: Alamy
Sir Clive Woodward looks on. Credit: Alamy

World Cup-winning coach with England in 2003, Sir Clive Woodward, has taken another swipe at former head coach Eddie Jones whilst predicting a bright future for the Steve Borthwick era.

Woodward looks forward to a time when the focus is on the team and not Jones, who was relieved of his duties at the end of last year, with Borthwick (his former assistant) taking over the England side.

Change on its way

The 66-year-old lamented the “awful rhetoric” in English rugby during Jones’ time as head coach and predicted a much brighter future.

“It will be a big change to the Eddie Jones era, where all the focus was on the coach and not the team. I hope the Borthwick era will bring an end to the awful rhetoric that came to symbolise English rugby under Jones. If I had one wish for 2023, it would be to ban the terms ‘starters’ and ‘finishers’,” Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

Woodward knows Borthwick well, having handed him a Test cap in 2001 and understands the level of detail the former second-row sees in the game.

He boldly believes that under the new guidance, England can not only go on to win the Six Nations but achieve the pinnacle of rugby by winning the Rugby World Cup in France later this year.

“England can absolutely win the Six Nations and the World Cup. The more I think about it, the more excited I am about Steve Borthwick’s appointment as head coach,” Woodward wrote.

“I capped Borthwick in 2001, and I was pleased he spoke about his time playing under me when he was unveiled by England.

“He spoke about the posters we had on the walls, which reminded the players of several aspects of our game, but most importantly to remember the basics. They are: lineout, scrum and restarts.

“Borthwick was right to say England aren’t in the top three in the world in any of rugby’s key areas right now. That has to change and I believe it will.”

Finding the best XV

Finding the right personnel will be one of Borthwick’s first challenges, according to Woodward, who also believes it is crucial to ensure a positive culture within the team.

The former coach would like to see Borthwick select form players and be bold with his squad.

“Borthwick needs to nail down who he wants in his starting 15, but especially the key positions of 10, 12 and 13. He has to get the culture right,” he added.

“I’d like to see form Premiership players like Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Earl given a chance and bring a fresh, youthful vibrancy to the England set-up. Since the 2019 World Cup, Jones picked virtually the same players almost regardless of their club form.

“I think that will change under Borthwick and his selection for the Scotland game is an opportunity to really lay down a marker.”

Borthwick’s first game at the helm of the England side will be against Scotland in the Six Nations on February 4, where the country will wait in anticipation for the beginning of a new era.

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