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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Heartbreaking loss will fuel belief for England players, says Steve Borthwick

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England’s players will use the heartbreaking 16-15 Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa to grow just as they have done in adversity in the past, said head coach Steve Borthwick on Sunday.

The 44-year-old has to pick up his players for Friday’s third place play-off with Argentina after Handre Pollard’s late penalty sent the defending champions through to the final against New Zealand.

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That was the only time the Springboks led throughout a match that England had looked in control of, leading 15-6 at one stage in the second-half.

Borthwick, though, said the way he had seen the players cope with other disappointments during his tenure — he replaced the sacked Eddie Jones last December — gave him heart for the future.

“Yesterday morning (Saturday) I was reading a piece about adversity: in each adversity you find that seed of belief, you have got to grow it,” the former England lock and captain told reporters.

“This team has been through a bit over the last few years. Through each of those periods the team has picked up lessons, picked up what we needed to do and have grown from it.”

Borthwick and the team arrived at the sport’s quadrennial showpiece with few giving them chances of going far even in a weak pool.

They won all their pool games — including beating Argentina despite playing for most of the game with 14 men — and in the quarter-finals beat Fiji, who had recorded a historic win at Twickenham prior to the tournament.

“I think you have seen growth in this tournament,” said Borthwick.

“It hasn’t always been linear, it’s not the straightforward path you always want it to be. That is what I want this week, I want to make sure we take more growth and we move forward.”

‘Positive impact’

Borthwick said players react in different ways to adversity and he would draw on lessons he learned as a player to deal with them.

“I try to understand the position that the other people are in, try and reflect on how they are,” he said.

“Then treat people the way I would want to be treated myself. Sometimes I was treated that way (when he was a player) and sometimes I wasn’t.

“I want to make sure that as a coach I keep developing to treat people in the way they should be treated.

“Everyone handles adversity in a different way. Some people use it and keep thinking back to it, some people grab the lessons and don’t want to think about it again.

“The big message I keep saying to my team is, however each individual handles it, we collectively move forward.”

Borthwick was asked about the Springboks celebrating in front of his players faces but preferred to reflect on the positive impact his squad had had.

“They will handle themselves as they decide to,” he said of the Springboks.

“I believe the England rugby team can have such a positive effect on people.

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“It had a huge impact upon me, I have seen it have an impact on a whole host of people and communities.

“I’ll talk to players about that almost on a daily basis.

“I want them to have a positive impact everywhere they go.

“I am really proud of the way they conduct themselves, that is what we will continue to do.”


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