Borthwick demands clinical England
November 8, 2009
England skipper Steve Borthwick shakes hands with fly-half Jonny Wilkinson following their loss to Australia at Twickenham © Getty Images
England captain Steve Borthwick has called on his side to discover a ruthless streak following their toothless display against Australia at Twickenham.
Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson kicked England into a first half lead but the hosts lacked a cutting edge and were eventually overhauled by the Wallabies. Fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed for the crucial score and the conversion from Matt Giteau ensured the visitors made a winning start to quest for a grand slam tour.
Borthwick, who was a key component to England's early dominance at the set-piece, believes they must learn how to deliver the knock out blow - and fast - with the challenge of Argentina and then New Zealand awaiting them in the coming weeks.
"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."
England's failure to see off their Cook Cup rivals was all too familiar and as a result they are under increasing pressure to prove they have learnt their lessons following their capitulation at the hands of the Wallabies, South Africa and New Zealand 12 months ago.
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.
"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," said Borthwick. "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."
Johnson pinpointed a drop in intensity as the reason for his side's latest loss to their southern hemisphere rivals. "We invited pressure back on us and we really didn't get out of our own half," said Johnson. "That was down to lots of things. We lost a bit of intensity and accuracy after half-time and struggled to get it back.
"A few times in the second half, we kicked the ball away too much. We were trying to get in behind them with attacking kicks, but it made it easy for them to keep the pressure on. We did some good things - and at times we didn't. If you let them dominate territory, as they did in the second half, you are going to concede at some point.
"I am not too down about this," added Johnson. "We will be better for playing the game, getting into the rhythm of playing Test rugby. There is a great deal we can take out of it. You always want to be slicker and sharper. We try and accelerate that process in training."
The biggest 'positive' was the return of Wilkinson to Test rugby and produced an inspirational performance, particularly in defence. But he believes the side must make improvements if they are to prevent a similar result against the Pumas next weekend.
"Argentina are an incredibly physical team. Massively fit, fast, powerful and hugely passionate and skilful. They are a team which surprise you week in and week out," said the 30-year-old who plays alongside the likes of Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Felipe Contepomi and Esteban Lozada at French club Toulon. "You watch these guys train and think they are world-class players and you think 'thank God they are on my side,'" said Wilkinson. "Unfortunately that will not be the case next week."
The fly-half also felt a huge responsibility for failing to guide England to what would have been a morale-boosting win. "You put on a white shirt and you go out and fire every shot you've got to make sure that when you come off the field you have done everything for your team.
"But as soon as you put a number 10 on your back the marker for your success is how the team does. You are the directional tool. Finding the answers is what the decision makers are there for. My job was to direct us towards a win and it didn't happen."
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