Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Borthwick searches for positives for England

Captain Steve Borthwick insists England must learn how to strike the knockout blow if they are to develop from mere sparring partners to heavyweight world championship contenders.

England slipped back to their lowest world ranking of eighth following Saturday's 18-9 defeat to Australia and a performance packed with familiar failings.

With Jonny Wilkinson in commanding form, England led for an hour. But there was barely a hint of attacking invention, and that match-winning platform was comprehensively dismantled.

England did not score a point in the second half as Australia cranked up the pressure — and it was, predictably, the Wallabies who landed the winning punch with Adam Ashley-Cooper's try 10 minutes from time.

When Matt Giteau landed the touchline conversion, the Wallabies had moved two scores clear and sealed the first leg of a potential grand slam tour.

The England squad reconvene at Pennyhill Park tonight, and Borthwick will demand they learn their lessons quickly before Argentina arrive at Twickenham on Saturday.

“We put ourselves in a position to go and win this game — and we didn't. We are tremendously disappointed by that,” said Borthwick.

“We need to make sure we get ourselves in that position again next week, and push on.

“We looked tremendously dangerous with the some of the opportunities we made — but we didn't take them.

“We can look at what Australia did very closely. We can learn from all these experiences about what we can improve on.”

But Borthwick began to sound like a broken record. The same comments were made after England were beaten in a similar fashion by the Wallabies 12 months ago.

England had their chances to beat Wales and Ireland during the Six Nations but fell short on those occasions too, and Saturday's performance begged the question: Are England any closer to turning things around?

Team manager Martin Johnson has now overseen seven defeats in 12 Test matches — with his only victories against Argentina, the Pacific Islands, Italy and France in what was England's best performance of his reign.

But Borthwick said: “We have come a long way as a squad. I believe wholeheartedly in what Martin Johnson is creating with his coaching team and this squad of players.

“Everybody is excited with what we can do. That culture, we believe, will go on to win rugby matches.

“There were huge 'positives' to take from this game. There was a massive work ethic from all the guys.”

The biggest 'positive' was the return of Wilkinson to Test rugby and produced an inspirational performance, particularly in defence.

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