England coach Steve Borthwick happy to praise Irish – but not former team-mate Andy Farrell
We’re not sure what Steve Borthwick’s views on adversity are, but you can imagine Andy Farrell relishing the slight setback being thrown into the mix ahead of tomorrow’s Grand Slam decider
England’s trip to Dublin didn’t get off to a great start, when their flight from London was delayed yesterday.
We’re not sure what Steve Borthwick’s views on adversity are, but you can imagine Andy Farrell relishing the slight setback being thrown into the mix ahead of tomorrow’s Grand Slam decider at the Aviva Stadium.
By the time Borthwick arrived at England’s team hotel in south Dublin, he began both of his press conferences by issuing apologies to the sizeable group of assembled media.
For a side already feeling the heat following last weekend’s record defeat to France at Twickenham, Borthwick will be hoping the delayed flight is the one and only hiccup of the weekend.
Considering the England boss played alongside Farrell, we thought it would be a good idea to ask Borthwick about what he thought of the job his former team-mate has done with Ireland.
“I think what you see here in Ireland is an incredible pathway system to come through. You see the building blocks that went through prior to 2019,” Borthwick said.
“The team that developed and developed and developed. It built itself to the top of the world rankings, and that has continued post 2019.
“You see a provincial rugby set-up that keeps producing players. You see a Leinster team that is always competing at the top of Europe, and producing a huge contingent into the Ireland team.
“So, I think you look at the whole system of Irish rugby – and you see, right now, what a fantastic job everyone that is involved is doing.”
Not quite the Farrell-related response we were hoping for, so we went back for a second attempt, specifically asking Borthwick if he saw Farrell-like traits in this Ireland team.
“I think what you see is some fantastic rugby players. That’s what I see,” he said. “They are a team that moves fast, that has great athleticism.
“I experienced that coaching against Leinster last season. You see a really well-drilled, organised team that is incredibly athletic.
“As I say, they have also been together for a large period of time. I think it’s over a thousand caps in their Test 23. There’s not too many teams that produce that.
“So, that just adds to the great challenge but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to this weekend.”
Then it was someone else’s turn to have a go at getting Borthwick to speak about the Farrell he knows, but again he veered off topic.
“I know Andy since we played alongside each other in the England set-up in 2007. So I’ve known Andy a long time,” Borthwick said.
“As you look at this championship, it has been incredible in so many ways, because there are a number of really good teams the programmes put together.
“You see France last week, their World Cup cycle, you see the way Scotland have used it as well to produce really quality teams.
“Again this weekend you’ll see a game with lots of quality players on the pitch.”
Despite Borthwick deciding to swerve the Farrell angle, it was interesting to hear him touch on Leinster.
For so long, England’s success came on the back of Saracens dominating the Premiership and Europe, but the landscape has totally changed in recent years.
Borthwick, though, pointed out that perceived advantage of Farrell naming 12 Leinster players in his starting team to face his England side.
“I think that would certainly help in terms of their understanding of combinations,” Borthwick added.
“When it comes to this role, you obviously look at opposition teams, the situations they are in, where they are, putting the finishing touches to their teams before the World Cup.
“That’s not the situation we are in. We are in a situation where we have to bring people together. I think the players need to have time.”
Given the tense mood at last night’s press conference, you sense that time is already ticking fast for Borthwick.
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