Steve Borthwick looking for England to be ‘tactically smart’ against New Zealand in July as they target 2003 repeat | Rugby Union News

England head coach Steve Borthwick has urged his side to be “tactically smart and mentally tough” when they head to New Zealand for a two-Test series in July.

England, who reached the semi-finals of last autumn’s World Cup and then finished third in the 2024 Six Nations, will play the All Blacks in Dunedin on July 6 and then in Auckland a week later.

Borthwick wants his team to take inspiration from a 15-13 victory over New Zealand in Wellington in 2003, a game the tourists won despite having Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back sin-binned.

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Sky Sports News’ James Cole and digital journalist Megan Wellens review England’s Six Nations campaign

Borthwick, an unused substitute for that match 21 years ago, told Sky Sports News: “Whenever you play against New Zealand you have to be tactically smart and mentally very tough to get the results you want to get.

“I was on the bench in 2003 and the standout memory I have of the game was when we were down to six forwards. The need to stand firm, the team had to get out of that situation and find a way to win.

“Talk about being tactically smart and mentally tough – the team Clive Woodward developed then was exactly that. That is the next step for us, it is a great challenge.

“The player depth and quality New Zealand have of players that are skilful, athletic and powerful ensure they are always a very, very good team. They have a formidable record.”

England will play Japan in June and then New Zealand twice in July

Borthwick expects sapping conditions in Japan Test

Prior to meeting the All Blacks, Borthwick’s side will play one Test against Japan, who are now being coached for a second time by former England chief Eddie Jones.

Borthwick is expecting sapping conditions in Tokyo for the June 22 contest and is preparing his players accordingly.

He said: “We have a team of England players who are taking the next step in their development against a very skilful Japan team, who have been very clear about the brand of rugby they want to play.

“It will be challenging conditions: hot and humid. We have heat protocols in place, making sure the players are ready for it physically, emotionally and mentally, and that they can handle the ball. We are training for those conditions now.”

eddie jones
Eddie Jones was re-hired as Japan coach in December

Borthwick, who namechecked Saracens’ Ben Earl, Northampton Saints’ Fin Smith, Harlequins’ Fin Baxter and Exeter Chiefs’ Greg Fislau as players who have particularly impressed him this season, added of his group: “We have seen the start of an emergence of a new England team with transition post the 2023 World Cup.

“We have got a group of really experienced senior internationals who have played for England for a number of years.

“They are helping develop a group of exciting young players who have added a new dimension to the way we want to play. I am very confident in this group of players.”

Borthwick named a 19-strong training squad on Sunday, one which features Baxter and Fislau, with players from Northampton, Bath, Sale Sharks and Saracens to be added once their Premiership play-off campaigns are over.

England’s summer fixtures (UK and Irish time)

Saturday June 22 – vs Japan (7am)
Saturday July 6 – vs New Zealand (8.05am)
Saturday July 13 – vs New Zealand (8.05am)

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