Steve Borthwick promises to bring back ‘joy’ as Matt Proudfoot and Brett Hodgson face axe

Hodgson, who had succeeded Anthony Seibold as England defense coach, will depart without directly overseeing a Test match. He spent the autumn series shadowing the outgoing Siebold, but Sinfield has arrived from Leicester Tigers as a key member of Borthwick’s staff.

Proudfoot joined the England set-up from South Africa in 2020, having coordinated the Springboks scrum during their victorious World Cup campaign. However, set-piece frailties are understood to have come in for criticism in the review that led to Eddie Jones’ sacks earlier this month.

Hodgson and Proudfoot both attended Champions Cup matches this weekend, with the former, ironically, at Leicester Tigers’ win over Clermont before watching Northampton Saints go down to Munster. Proudfoot was in attendance for Harlequins’ narrow win over Racing 92 on Sunday.

Sources have indicated that Richard Cockerill will stay on under Borthwick, who on Monday underlined his desire to strengthen England’s set piece and explained that his first few days in the job would be spent pondering the make-up of his coaching and management teams. The fate of attacking coach Martin Gleeson was unclear.

“That’s the first priority in the next few days, ensuring everything is in place so that this team can be prepared as well as possible,” Borthwick said. “Then in the next period of time I’ll be reaching out to the players.

“We have two one-day camps, on the second and third of January. That’s already been put in place. That will be an opportunity for me to meet all the players, face-to-face.”

“I want us to have a coaching team that has growth in us; that can prepare this team as well as we possibly can,” Borthwick added. “We want to produce the best England team that we possibly can. The players deserve that and the supporters deserve that. My job is to put together a coaching team that can deliver that.”

Borthwick said that Bill Sweeney, the chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, had been “unequivocal” in his support to date. Asked specifically about Hodgson, whose arrival was only announced in November, Sweeney himself would not comment on the individual situations of any coaches.

“I think it’s too early to say that yet,” Sweeney said. Steve has to come in now and he’ll have conversations. Probably top of his agenda will be to talk to all the existing coaches and he’ll have a view in terms of what his coaching set-up will be like. So I don’t think it’s appropriate at this stage to speculate. We’d want to treat everyone the same way so we’ll allow Steve to get his feet under the table and have those conversations with coaches.”

Sweeney defended the turnover of staff under Jones and added that Borthwick, who had been replaced as Leicester Tigers head coach on an interim basis by Richard Wigglesworth, would be given freedom to assemble his team.

“Absolutely, and you’d expect that,” Sweeney said. He was clearly identified as the number one [candidate] – and Leicester knew that. You can’t bring someone in and say ‘right you can’t do this and you can’t do that’. And, within the confines of a certain reasonableness, we back him in terms of what he wants to do.”

Sweeney, meanwhile, admitted that he would be “amazed” if Jones was not coaching a rival nation at the 2023 World Cup. Hamish McLennan, the Rugby Australia chairman, has already expressed his interest in luring Jones to the Wallabies.

“I’d be amazed if he wasn’t there,” said Sweeney of Jones involvement in France next year. Who knows? Hamish McLennan said they are going to ‘weaponise’ Eddie or something. Does he go there as a consultant, does he go to the USA, to Japan, I don’t know.”


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