Steve Borthwick won’t get his dream assistant coaching ticket

Steve Borthwick won’t get his dream assistant coaching ticket – Getty Images/David Rogers

The longer it takes Steve Borthwick to settle on the throne at the helm of the England men’s team, the more complicated his appointment seems. Mid-December is not the time to try to build a backstage team, unless you want to part with a considerable amount of money to do so.

While the exclusive Telegraph Sport story on Wednesday suggested a deal for Borthwick is drawing closer – at a cost of £1million after Borthwick signed an unannounced contract extension following Leicester’s Premiership title win at the end of last season – the news that Leicester defense coach Kevin Sinfield and club physical performance manager Aled Walters are unlikely to follow Borthwick to Twickenham.

Missing the two backroom staff would be a coup for Leicester and a hammer blow for England in equal measure. Sinfield has become one of the country’s leading defensive coaches, while Walters’ proven success with first the Springboks and now Leicester – and the praise for him from players from both sides – suggests he would be an addition precious.

Minimizing disruption as much as possible by promoting Sinfield to head coaching seems to be Leicester’s plan and makes sense. Losing Borthwick will hurt, but losing the core backroom staff who helped win a first league title in nine years would be a major setback.

That leaves Borthwick in the slightly awkward position of reporting to Pennyhill Park to work with the assistant coaches Eddie Jones left behind, one of whom, Brett Hodgson, has only just taken over as coach of the team’s defense following Anthony Seibold’s return to Australia. .

Having the three Borthwicks, Richard Cockerill and Matt Proudfoot in place is either an abundance of forward expertise or too many cooks, depending on your perspective.

Proudfoot in particular felt under pressure after England were completely dismantled by the Springboks at Twickenham in late November, a display of such scrum dominance that even the only penalty that was awarded against South Africa , when Frans Malherbe sent Mako Vunipola’s legs over his. head, appeared very questionable upon examination. If the RFU was looking to cut the fat a bit, then Proudfoot should be considered.

Matt Proudfoot saw the England pack dismantled by the Springboks at Twickenham - Getty Images/David Rogers

Matt Proudfoot saw the England pack dismantled by the Springboks at Twickenham – Getty Images/David Rogers

Assuming Sinfield stays at Leicester as planned, the rest of Borthwick’s options appear set. England’s attack felt confused throughout the fall, hinting at excitement in those last 10 minutes against New Zealand while generating frustration.

Leicester can play when they have to, but otherwise there is a clear structure in place – winning the kicking battle, controlling the air, forcing turnovers, intimidating the free kick – to which manager Martin Gleeson of attack remaining, will have to adapt.

Richard Wigglesworth, still playing at 39, served as Leicester’s attacking coach, while Sam Vesty’s expansive approach at Northampton won him many admirers. Perhaps in a post-2023 rebuild – when Borthwick was ideally supposed to take over – Vesty would have been the better choice even if there is a philosophical difference with the vast attack model installed in Northampton compared to the more direct approach to Leicester.

Having a mixture of those two styles seems to be the best outcome, particularly if England want to get the most out of Marcus Smith – if he stays as the starting fly-half, which isn’t guaranteed – or their wingers, whose touches in the fall were limited with their time largely spent chasing kicks and looking for work.

Borthwick and Cockerill have between them more than enough of us to improve the England squad, and you must feel some sympathy for Hodgson, who was to become the fourth defense coach under Jones in eight years after Paul Gustard, John Mitchell and Seibold .

Hodgson, 44, had the opportunity to shadow Seibold in the fall and as a result must have come out of the campaign with a case ready to go. Although when you consider how England fared in the fall in the set pieces, attacking and defensive categories, the latter is arguably the least of their concerns.

Borthwick is the latest head coach to make excuses or highlight his weaknesses, but who could blame him if this arranged marriage between him and a backroom staff he didn’t choose leaves him lightly unhappy.

There is no all-star coaching staff assembled with unlimited funds to give Borthwick the easiest start to coaching the national team. It’s an awkward, mixed hybrid of a previous failure – in the eyes of the RFU after Jones was sacked – and a hope that the new head coach could get more information on the assistants who remain under contract.

Combining Borthwick with the core of his Leicester coaching staff – Sinfield, Wigglesworth, potentially Walters and with Vesty to liven up the attack – would have been a clearer indication that England were turning a corner. Instead, these are the pitfalls you face when hiring a new head coach 10 months from a World Cup.

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