Borthwick on his England Six Nations squad of new faces and veterans
Steve Borthwick’s first squad announcement as England coach has seen him take a chance on potential debutants in some areas while reverting to once again trusted veterans of the game in others.
The announcement – made yesterday at Twickenham Stadium, the location for Borthwick’s first match as head coach on 4 February – saw the former Leicester Tigers boss speak with passion about the players he has picked and what each of them brings to his squad.
Leicester Tigers prop Dan Cole, 35, has earned a recall for the first time since the 2019 World Cup final and is joined by Elliot Daly and Ben Earl among those who have returned to the national training squad.
Big omissions include Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell and Jonny May, while a number of uncapped players, including wingers Cadan Murley and Ollie Hassell-Collins, are included and in contention to play Scotland in the opening match of the Six Nations in less than three weeks.
Borthwick said nobody “in the world could be more efficient with his words than Dan Cole. I got the ‘thank you’, but if you could read into a thank you [it] said a million words about his excitement at being back in this team.
“Caden Murley has an ability to score tries and find his way to the tryline. He can beat defenders in the smallest space possible and has the power to step off both feet and then accelerate. That ability is very impressive, [and] can also play at 14 and 11.
“Ollie Hassell-Collins, he’s a big powerful winger. He runs fast, over 10 metres per second, and has a really good left foot. He’s very tall, he’s great in the air but his absolute super strength is ball in hand. When he runs he has the ability to take them on the outside and then cut inside.”
The former Leicester Tigers boss has retained Owen Farrell as captain, citing the Saracens player’s ability to challenge the head coach and team as key. Bristol prop Ellis Genge and Northampton forward Courtney Lawes were named vice-captains.
“Whenever I’ve chatted to anyone who has played with Owen, they have talked about how he has helped them to be better players, because of the way he is,” Borthwick said. “It’s been the same since I came back in. I’ve chatted to all the players and they’ve all been very complimentary about Owen’s leadership.
“Every captain needs to lead by example in terms of the way they approach the contest. I think Owen also has an incredible understanding of the game.”
Given this 36-man squad will be thinned out ahead of the Calcutta Cup, the selection questions Borthwick must answer remain, and will do so for a number of weeks.
But the 43-year-old former England captain insists he has a good idea of what he wants his team to look like.
“Yes I do [know my ideal XV],” he said. “The weekend before last changed it quite substantially. So we’ve still got another round of games before the players come into camp.
“I understand that things change – that’s life. I’ll not be a coach who’ll sit here and bemoans things – the players we have available, I want to coach them to the best of my ability and yes I do have a picture in my mind of it and it’s something I’ve discussed with the coaches [Kevin Sinfield, defence, Richard Cockerill, scrum, Nick Evans, attack] but we understand that might change.”