Steve Borthwick aims to unleash ‘super strengths’ of England’s new-look attack

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Steve Borthwick’s new England era will empower players to stick to their “super strengths”.

The new England boss has swept a fresh, attacking broom through Twickenham, ushering in try-scoring tyros Cadan Murley and Ollie Hassell-Collins at the expense of senior stagers Jonny May and Jack Nowell.

Harlequins’ arch-finisher Murley and London Irish flyer Hassell-Collins were among a new generation of young stars who could not quite convince former head coach Eddie Jones of their readiness for Test rugby.

Borthwick has positioned himself as a Gallagher Premiership champion though, where predecessor Jones stubbornly ignored club form as a Test-selection barometer.

“I want to bring the players’ super strengths onto the field,” said Borthwick.

“Cadan Murley has an ability to score tries and find his way to the try line. He can beat defenders in the smallest space possible and has the power to step off both feet and then accelerate. That ability is very impressive. He can also play on both wings.

“Ollie Hassell-Collins is a big, powerful winger. He’s quick, running at more than 10 metres per second, and has a really good left foot. He’s very tall, he’s great in the air and he defends well.

“Kevin Sinfield has sent me a clip at least five times of him defending on the edge, but his absolute strength is ball in hand. When he runs, he has the ability to take defenders on the outside and then cut inside. He can go both ways and I think that’s a great strength.

“I told him the news of his selection and he was obviously very happy. Two minutes later he also messaged me to tell me how happy he was to be in the squad. He really wants to play for England.”

Borthwick will prize clarity, effective simplicity and honesty in the new England regime, with assistant Sinfield fully endorsing the same philosophy.

Gloucester’s May and Exeter’s Nowell are the unfortunate fall guys in England’s search for more pace, panache and finishing power. The vastly-experienced wings can clearly still cut it at Test level, but England’s attack had become blunted in the final throes of former boss Jones’ tenure.

England’s attacking game was left muddled by Jones’ search for offensive expansion, amid a 2022 blighted by just five wins in 12 Tests.

More broadly, England have seemingly forever selected players off the back of specific club traits – only to challenge them to fill completely different roles in the Test arena. Square pegs for square holes will provide the perfect fit for Borthwick then, but the new boss is determined also to avoid the prosaic.

If any of this sounds elementary, the glaring reality is that all the years since England’s 2003 World Cup triumph are littered with examples of players tasked with ignoring their points of difference at club level and struggling for a Test reinvention.

“I want them to bring all of themselves, I want them to be all-in, and to do that you’ve got to bring all your strengths,” said Borthwick.

“My job is to encourage them to come in and create an environment that allows them to transfer those strengths to the field, so we can see the very best of them out there.”