I want my players to retire without regrets - unlike me, says Borthwick

Rugby Union - 2023 Six Nations Championship launch - London, Britain - January 23, 2023 England head coach Steve Borthwick during the launch Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - New England coach Steve Borthwick said on Monday that he did not always get his best performances onto the pitch as a player in the test arena and says he is determined to help the current team avoid having the same regrets once they stop playing.

Borthwick, a tough lock and lineout specialist, played for England from 2001-2010 but had a frustrating career that featured 29 wins, 27 defeats and a draw.

He narrowly missed out on the victorious 2003 World Cup squad and was a peripheral part of the 2007 squad that lost in the final. His two years of captaincy from 2008, mostly under Martin Johnson, coincided with a generally poor period for the national team and injury accelerated the end of his international career.

Now given the responsibility of hauling England out of another slump, Borthwick has given an open and honest assessment of how his own career frustrations have helped forge his coaching philosophy.

"I was privileged to play 57 times for England and had the great honour of captaining my country on 21 occasions," he told reporters at the Six Nations Championship launch on Monday.

"I look back and I regret a lot of the things I didn’t do. Did I ever give the very, very best account of myself? I always put the effort in, but did I ever feel I put all my strengths on the pitch? Would I like to rewind the clock and go back and try and do it again? Yes, I would.

"As a coach I want to help these young guys not make the mistakes I made. When they’re old and have no hair like me, I want them to not have regrets. I don’t want them looking back thinking “I wish I’d done that or I could have done that - let's do it.

MAKE MISTAKES

"One thing I’ll promise you is we’re going to make mistakes, but what I want the players to do is bring their great strengths on to the field in an England shirt because they’re incredibly talented."

Borthwick's personality, at least in public, is the polar opposite of Eddie Jones, the man he replaced, and he laughed off the suggestion that he might follow the Australian's example of trying to play "mind games" with the opposition.

"I’m going to be authentic and not play mind games. I’ll leave that to other coaches," he said. "My strategy is to be very up front.

"I care deeply about my players and I’m going to help them have an incredible experience and make sure they’re really proud of what they’ve done."

Borthwick takes over a team who were booed off at Twickenham after their last game - a limp defeat by South Africa in November - and who have finished third and fifth in the last two Six Nations.

"The reality is we’re a little bit behind, you saw that in the autumn, and we've got work to do," he said, making it clear that, unlike Jones, his focus was on the next game and not this year's World Cup.

"I want to make sure this England team improves from where it was," he said. "It's an incredible year we have ahead of us... but one thing that’s going to be really clear about my philosophy is that every game matters.

"My job is to make sure the England team goes on to the pitch, prepared to be able to find a way to win that game. And then we'll do next week and then the next week and the next week. I am very clear on that. Very clear."

Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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