England’s “Boring” Tactics at the 2023 Rugby World Cup: A Winning Strategy?
Amid outcry from fans, media, and former players over England’s “boring” tactics so far at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, head coach Steve Borthwick reiterated that winning is all that matters as he turns his attention to a clash with Chile on Saturday. In a post-match press conference following Sunday’s 34-12 bonus-point win over Japan, Borthwick emphasized that the players find a way to win, which is ultimately the important thing.
Controversy Over England’s Playing Style
While Borthwick’s focus on winning may be unwavering, not everyone in the rugby world shares the same sentiment. Former France flanker Olivier Magne went as far as to call England’s rugby “repulsive,” expressing his disappointment in their lack of desire, joy, and consistency. There have also been cries for greater excitement from some of England’s own, with former outside center Jeremy Guscott labeling the team’s victory over Japan as “pretty boring.”
Criticism of England’s tactics has also come from the media. Rugby correspondent Mick Cleary described Borthwick’s side as “tedious to watch,” while Jonathan Liew of The Guardian condemned their “incurable foot fetish,” implying that England is still playing a style of rugby that even its own mother couldn’t love. The gap between England and the elite teams is also a concern, as former England fly-half Stuart Barnes stated that it is significant and continually growing.
More of the Same as Chile and Samoa Await?
Despite the criticism, Borthwick seems determined to stick with his team’s current approach. He promised that England’s attack would continue to grow under their new coaching team but did not indicate any immediate changes to their playing style. Borthwick pointed out that despite challenging conditions, his side still managed to score four tries against Japan. Additionally, he highlighted that in their most successful World Cup campaigns, England only scored four tries across eight matches against top-tier nations.
The real question Borthwick needs to consider is whether their kicking-focused tactics will work against the world heavyweights they may face in the knock-out stages. Furthermore, he must contemplate whether this style of rugby will continue to attract fans to stadiums. While their strategy has proven effective so far, it remains to be seen how it will fare against stronger opposition.
The Dilemma of Owen Farrell’s Return
A dilemma Borthwick will have to grapple with ahead of the game against Chile is how to incorporate Owen Farrell back into the team. As England’s captain, Farrell’s return from suspension raises questions about his role in a line-up heavily reliant on George Ford’s kicking prowess. Will Borthwick make room for both Farrell and Ford in the starting XV or will Ford be benched despite scoring all of England’s 27 points in the opening match win over Argentina?
England’s match against Chile is scheduled for Saturday, September 23rd, and while Borthwick remains focused on this game, the debate over their playing style and tactics is likely to continue.