Latest phase in Borthwick’s genius World Cup winning masterplan is unveiled
After executing stage one of his World Cup plan last week against Wales in Cardiff, Steve Borthwick would have set his England team the task of improving on that performance at Twickenham. Most rational people would immediately say that was impossible- how could a team of professional players produce fewer than 17 handling errors, win their own lineout and tackle correctly?
Miraculously, England did muster a better performance at HQ, leaving the field at half-time 6-0 up. Borthwick, along with every other knowledgable rugby fan in the world, would have said that if England can win a half of rugby against a second string Wales side that are pathologically incapable of winning a lineout, the likes of France, Ireland, South Africa and the All Blacks will be a walk in the park. That is when he began phase two of his World Cup winning plan labelled ‘see how many players we can get sent off and still win.’
First it was Ellis Genge who was yellow carded and England remained competitive, then it was Freddie Steward who was yellow carded and the wheels started to come off a bit as he conceded a penalty try in the process. However, England were still in the game. Then it was up to captain Owen Farrell who stepped up to perfectly execute his coach’s orders and test his side’s capabilities to the limit.
The only logical explanation as to why Farrell, a player with a history of producing shoulder charges to the head, would do that exact tackle in such an unnecessary position and when his England side were under immense pressure is that he was told to do so by his coach. It is the only thing that makes sense.
Borthwick learnt an important lesson at Twickenham- England cannot play with 12 players. Wales began to run riot, but as soon as Genge and Steward returned to the fray, England surged right back into the match and won. 14 players? Easy for England. 13 players? Slightly harder. 12 players? Don’t do that at the World Cup. It is all a learning curve as England stride towards their second World Cup.
The imminent ban for Farrell was also surely part of Borthwick’s masterplan, as it now means his captain gets a break throughout the pool stages, ready to unleash hell for the knockout phase.
We all await stage three next week against Ireland.