Three things England need to fix ahead of the Rugby World Cup

Steve Borthwick 17/3/2023
England endured another difficult afternoon in Dublin as their World Cup preparation and Summer Nations Series continue to underwhelm.

England endured another difficult afternoon in Dublin as their World Cup preparation and Summer Nations Series continue to underwhelm.

A second defeat of the summer, this time losing 29-10 to Ireland in Dublin, flattered to deceive and Steve Borthwick’s side now have just one more dress rehearsal before crossing the Channel, taking on Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.

That game is now one of significant importance for England and Borthwick, who will look to finally find some cohesion in the backline and start smiling again.

But ahead of that match, there will be another tough batch of analysis for Borthwick and the players and we look at three areas England need to fix ahead of the World Cup getting underway.


It did not help that for the second time in as many games, England were reduced to 14-men midway through the second half.

Owen Farrell was the culprit against Wales the week previously, when England were reduced to 12-men at one stage after further yellow cards to Freddie Steward and Ellis Genge, and this week it was Billy Vunipola, sent off for a clear shoulder to the head of Andrew Porter.

Those respective tackles will likely carry bans too but in the short term, Borthwick and defence coach Kevin Sinfield simply must stop any further damage being done.

Vunipola’s red card on Saturday was the third time in succession England have been reduced to 14 against Ireland and unsurprisingly the results are not too pretty as a consequence.

It is not just the cards too, with costly penalties at the breakdown preventing momentum and giving Ireland field position, something Borthwick will be desperate to put a stop to.

Kicking Game

Borthwick was known for his kicking game at Leicester Tigers and it became a hugely effective way of gaining field position with such a dominant forward pack.

For England though, it has seemed the easy option, with little to no ambition shown in the backfield to launch a counter attack or keep the opposition on their toes and kicks seemingly being sent back with no aim or purpose.

France are the blueprint here, a side who kick more than most but each kick is both on the money and calculated, allowing for maximum competition in the air and maximum territory gained.

Kicking is a massively important aspect of Test rugby but England seem to use it as a plan A rather than a last resort when under pressure.

George Ford is excellent at the spiral bomb but a kick is only as good as its chase and England’s chasing game has also become wayward, making even good kicks seem aimless.

With the likes of Ford, Smith, Elliot Daly and Steward in the squad, England have the players to possess one of the best kicking games in the world but they will need to have a re-think on how they deploy it.


Despite the scoreline, England did look more threatening at times than against Wales the week before but this week, albeit against arguably the best defence in the world, their cutting edge was lacking.

They had six entries into the Ireland 22 but were unable to come away with more than one try from those visits, with Kyle Sinckler bundling over from close range, as England totalled just 1.6 points per visit to the Ireland 22.

This will probably have been the most concerning aspect for Borthwick, with a back not scoring a try for England in almost six hours of rugby.

There is no doubting the talent England have and maybe they are holding their hit plays until the World Cup but they will be really hoping they can showcase a bit more going forward against Fiji this weekend before the challenge of Argentina in their World Cup opener.

If they can get themselves a couple of tries this weekend, confidence may build, something which at the moment seems to be lacking from the side, showing just how important this weekend is.