Steve Borthwick insists there are no quick fixes as he tries to reinvigorate an England team underperforming and beset by failings glaring during the Eddie Jones era.
A 29-23 Guinness Six Nations loss to Scotland provided some promising moments, but ultimately a seven-try thriller at Twickenham was a disappointing start to Borthwick’s reign.
England’s new head coach took over in December after Jones was sacked in response to a dismal 2022, inheriting a team struggling with a number of major flaws.
While Ireland and Scotland have made strong initial impressions at the Six Nations, Borthwick knows a salvage job – counting just 11 days in camp to date – won’t happen overnight.
“We know we have a lot of work to do. I have been frank from day one in saying there is a lot of work to be done,” said Borthwick, whose next assignment is a second-round clash with Italy at Twickenham on Sunday.
“When I looked at the team in the fall, when I measured the team and got all the data on the team, we weren’t good at anything. He was as frank as that.
“So we’re trying to develop some strengths in this team and some things that please us and some things that disappoint. My job is to make sure we get some improvements for Italy.
“There are multiple areas that we have tried to change. You saw some improvements in the scrum against Scotland, which I was pleased about because he has been ranked as the worst scrum in top tier rugby.
“We saw some improvements in attack and ball speed and trying to improve the breakdown where England were ranked ninth fastest, making it one of the slowest at tier one.
“I had seen the custom within the team of awarding points early and not being able to respond to that. We conceded points against Scotland and the most important thing I was looking at was the response. I thought the response was great.
“We saw improvements against Scotland in many areas. Some areas didn’t go so well and we need to make sure we address them. Some take longer than others.
“We are trying to rebuild the scenario here. That takes time. You saw some improvement in our attack.
“In terms of the way we hit defence, there were improvements there, but there were a couple of tries that Scotland took brilliantly, which is a huge credit to them.
“I am disappointed with the result. I asked the players to do a few things differently. I have asked players to play in a new way.
“I have to make the players believe in themselves and have the players bring their strengths to the field.
“I want them to play their best, something we haven’t seen them do in a long time. I think you saw an improvement in that regard against Scotland.”
Veteran hooker Jamie George admits “something wasn’t quite right” last autumn when losses to Argentina and South Africa, plus a draw with New Zealand, sealed Jones’ fate.
Losing to Scotland, albeit narrowly in a Calcutta Cup classic, is a setback, but George insists the players are determined to see England’s comeback.
“We are all very, very ambitious people. We want to take England rugby to the top and we realize it hasn’t been good enough, especially in the autumn,” Saracens front row said.
“Eddie took the brunt of it in terms of losing his job, but at the same time we were the people in the field. So we also have to take responsibility for it.”