Fraser Dingwall
In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm uttered the iconic line that ‘Life finds a way’.

Steve Borthwick might struggle to match Goldblum’s sardonic delivery, but he borrowed the essence when describing his England team.

They were not necessarily at their best against a young Welsh team – particularly in the first half at Twickenham.

But as was the case in Round One of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations, Borthwick’s charges found a way to overcome a sticky situation and emerge victorious.

In Rome they saw off Italy by three points and against Wales the margin was even tighter, George Ford’s late penalty securing a 16-14 success.


That came from a second half in which England’s defence was ironclad and they were able to overcome a 14-5 deficit to claim the win.

Borthwick said: “The first thing we take is that there is a team here that stays in the fight and finds a way.

“The biggest lesson here is the trait that the players are developing in themselves which is staying in the fight.”

England have made discipline one of the key tenets of their development, with Maro Itoje setting a target of seven penalties conceded in this encounter, a week after they gave away eight in Italy.

When they lost the penalty count 6-0 in the first half, that seemed like an improbable goal, but Jamie George looked almost gleeful at the fact his team had managed it, giving away just one penalty in the second half.

They did spend time down a man here, in fact six minutes were spent with 13 men after yellow cards for Ollie Chessum and Ethan Roots, and yet England managed to win that period.

Itoje forced a scrum five metres out and Ben Earl carried Welsh defenders with him in manner reminiscent of another England No.8, Lawrence Dallaglio, 24 years earlier.

Even with Ford’s conversion attempt charged down in unusual circumstances, England were able to emerge from those six minutes five points better off than when they had started.

Playing down a man is not a new phenomenon for home games against Wales – in fact they came away with an unlikely victory prior to the World Cup here despite being reduced to 12 at one point.

As George joked, it is an unwelcome scenario to which they are learning to adapt.

He said: “It wasn’t exactly how we wanted it to go, I prefer to keep 15 men on the field against Wales at Twickenham, we don’t seem to be able to do that very often.

“But the fight and the character, the sort of team we want to be, to come out on the positive of that result is a huge step for us.”

This game really changed for England with a tactical adjustment at half-time, putting boot to ball more regularly and using the accuracy of Ford to play the game in the right areas.

The scrum and lineout getting on top certainly helped in that regard, with Wales starved of possession and then stymied by the aggressive approach employed by new defence coach Felix Jones when they did get the ball.

Even so, when Ford missed a touchline conversion for Fraser Dingwall’s try, England still trailed by a point heading into the last ten minutes and needed to set up one more chance.

It came from some Ford brilliance. Freddie Steward did what he does best, claiming a high ball in imperious fashion. Ford spotted his chance, dropped back in the pocket and when Danny Care fired the ball his way, he picked out space in the Welsh backfield for a 50:22 that set up the field position that led to the match-winning penalty.

In a game that came down to fine margins, the experience of one of England’s veteran campaigners proved decisive.

Next up for England is a trip to Scotland to try and reclaim the Calcutta Cup, which they last won in 2020. In fact, all three remaining opponents – Scotland, Ireland and then France – have enjoyed the better of their recent meetings with England.

In 2024 under Borthwick, England have learned to find a way. They will need to raise their game to keep doing so, but it is an important lesson to have mastered.