Mike Tindall makes surprising Calcutta Cup admission by ‘preferring’ an entertaining England loss

Colin Newboult
Mike Tindall, the former England captain, at an event in 2023.

Mike Tindall, the former England captain, at an event in 2023.

Rugby World Cup winner Mike Tindall would rather see England lose with panache than claim yet another painstaking victory this weekend.

The Red Rose have been a tough watch since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, firstly under Eddie Jones and then following Steve Borthwick’s arrival as head coach.

Borthwick has generally preferred a conservative approach where he focuses on getting the nuts and bolts of defence and set-piece right, which resulted in a semi-final appearance at the 2023 World Cup.

Poor displays

There are signs that England are attempting to expand their game in 2024, but they were not exactly convincing in the victories over Italy and Wales.

Tindall has not been particularly impressed by the style of Borthwick’s men in the Six Nations so far and is desperate for them to take more risks in the upcoming matches.

As a result, the ex-centre posed an interesting question on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast.

“They’re not going to beat Ireland. If England came away four from five in this tournament but played how they’re playing right now, or they came away two from five but their next two games have been 42-40, 31-29 and they’ve gone down to the wire and played amazing rugby, what would people want to see?” he said.

Presenter Alex Payne then turned it back on Tindall and was surprised by the 45-year-old’s response.

“Two out of five is bad, but I would say that one because it means they’re going somewhere. I would prefer to see a 31-29 loss,” the former England captain said ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash against Scotland.

Tindall ultimately believes that unconvincing victories are currently bad for England’s development and believes that only performances will help them long-term.

“Stuart Barnes wrote an article about how the win is the most important thing and the performance isn’t,” he said.

“I’m not sure I agree. England at the moment need performances rather than wins. If you win playing limited rugby then you’re never getting better, whereas if you go out and actually have a performance, you can always come back to eke out the win at the end.

“England need to figure out where they are going forward. At the moment, it feels like it’s all about consolidation, about structures, how we’re exiting, what we’re doing in these areas and, once we know that off by heart, he (Borthwick) might loosen the purse strings.”


Tindall insists that the skills, as well as the intent England want to play with, must be practised in training, otherwise it is impossible to get it right during a match.

“You can look at them in training and maybe they are doing those off-loads, and they’re just not doing them right now [in games],” he added.

“You’ve got to train that way because otherwise you’re never going to do it. You’ll never get the timing right of those off-loads and what you see in the Top 14, where it’s through the legs, over the top, and taking that risk.

“It is a game about occasionally taking that risk. If you’ve got them prepared for when your defence is as good as it is, or it will be, you need to back that [approach].

“What did Shaun Edwards always say? You just always go and get it (the ball) back.”

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