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Steve Borthwick's England role in doubt with Bristol saying exit 'not agreed'

Published 15/12/2015

Eddie Jones has made his first big decision as England head coach
Eddie Jones has made his first big decision as England head coach

England are in dispute with Bristol over the release of Steve Borthwick with governing body and club issuing conflicting statements over the forwards coach's appointment to the staff of Eddie Jones.

Little over an hour after the Rugby Football Union had announced Borthwick as the first backroom arrival of Jones' regime, Bristol declared that the former Red Rose captain had not been granted permission to leave.

England have grown frustrated at the difficulty in agreeing Borthwick's release from his contract at Ashton Gate, with the Greene King IPA Championship club - bankrolled by billionaire owner Steve Lansdown - believed to be seeking a large six-figure sum in compensation.

The result is a frustrating stand-off and the RFU is understood to have explored numerous options in the hope of securing Jones' right-hand man with Japan at this autumn's World Cup, including allowing him to return to Bristol in time for the end-of-season play-offs.

Borthwick submitted his notice on Tuesday in an attempt to force his departure and a stand-off has ensued which it is hoped will be brought to a conclusion by the end of the week.

''The RFU can announce Steve Borthwick has agreed to join Eddie Jones' coaching staff," an RFU statement on Tuesday afternoon read.

"He will be reunited with Jones, having worked together for three years on Japan's 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign as well as at Saracens, where the Australian signed him as a player from Bath.

''The 36-year-old former England international and captain had a brief coaching spell with Bristol following the conclusion of the tournament this year.''

Borthwick, who won 57 England caps and played in the 2007 World Cup final, described working with Jones and England as ''a really exciting opportunity''. Before combining with Japan, Borthwick and Jones worked together at Saracens.

''I'm delighted that Steve has joined my coaching set-up. I have known him for a long time through Saracens and Japan and he has done fantastic work as a coach," Jones said.

''Steve has a huge amount of international experience as a player and a captain and his coaching in Japan in recent years shows he can get the best out of the players at the highest level."

Bristol, who are hoping to secure a return to the Aviva Premiership at the end of the season and want to keep their highly rated assistant coach, responded with a robust statement indicating Borthwick's exit was far from guaranteed.

"Bristol want to make it clear that we have not agreed that Steve Borthwick can leave our employment," it read. "He is subject to a recently signed long-term employment contract.

"Bristol did not give the RFU permission to speak with Steve Borthwick. Bristol will take all reasonable actions as necessary to protect the club's position and, therefore, will not be making any further statement at this stage.''

England expect to complete negotiations for Saracens defence specialist Paul Gustard soon. The final appointment to Jones' coaching team is expected to be Northampton backs coach Alex King.

"We've had no official approach from the RFU, but I am aware that Alex is going to have a conversation with Eddie Jones some time this week," Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder said.

"If a job becomes available for Alex - and at the moment he's not spoken to him (Jones) as yet - then as a club we wouldn't stand in his way."

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