England face a tough ‘balancing act’ after Rugby World Cup success

Jared Wright
The English players after winning the Rugby World Cup 2023 Bronze final.

The English players after winning the Rugby World Cup 2023 Bronze final.

Ex-England captain Chris Robshaw believes that interesting times await Steve Borthwick and his troops following the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup.

Borthwick was brought into the England set-up at the start of the year, replacing Eddie Jones as the side’s head coach.

While expectations were low for the Red Rose, they managed to reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual champions South Africa by one point.

England’s Rugby World Cup

Robshaw says that Borthwick and his charges can be pleased about their performances at the tournament after a disappointing run of results before heading to France.

“The conditions [in the semi-final] were poor, but from England’s point of view, they will be pretty pleased,” he said on the Digest & Invest podcast by eToro

“You are always devastated that they haven’t gone on to win it, but from where they were pre-tournament and losing three out of four games, the first time to Fiji, at home as well. To then go unbeaten throughout the group, and then the quarter-finals, obviously – it was good. And to come away with the bronze medal; I think that’s still something, and they are the third-best side in the world.”

Looking ahead, Robshaw adds that Borthwick now faces the tough challenge of ushering out the older squad members who will not be around for Rugby World Cup 2027 and blooding in new players.

“I think it’s also going to be a really interesting one because there’s a couple of players who are not playing anymore like Courtney Lawes and Ben Youngs,” he said.

“There will be some other older players who have probably played their last game for England, and that’s always the case at this stage. What is Steve Borthwick going to do? Is he going to completely cut people off now and say look, I’ve got four years until the next World Cup; use the 2024 Six Nations or will he do it post-Six Nations on the summer tour?

“But our summer tour is in New Zealand, so you don’t want to be blooding players into that. There’s definitely a balancing act for sure, and I’m sure there will be a bit of change, and there has to be because a lot of these players have been brilliant, but they probably won’t be there in four years time, unfortunately.”

Lawes’ retirement

Former teammate and fellow captain Lawes is one of the players that Robshaw believes will leave a particularly big void to fill, but he understood his decision to hang up his international boots despite being relatively young to do so.

“Courtney Lawes was an interesting one because he’s still only 32, but I think for him, he has been to four World Cups, he’s probably been away from his family for a long time, he has played for the British and Irish Lions,” Robshaw added.

“His body is not as young as it used to be as well, and these types of things can be managed better when you go back to the club. Whereas when you’re playing for England, you want to be out there every single minute whether you have a broken hand or bad knee ligaments; you just want to be strapped up and straight back on the pitch.

“So it’s definitely an interesting time for the team; I think they’d be really pleased with how well they’ve done, and the fans should be as well because they have definitely changed people’s perceptions and minds a little bit.

“So all in all, for England, a really positive tournament and to build into the Six Nations is amazing and, of course, the Premiership.”

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