SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England can absolutely WIN the Six Nations AND the World Cup

The great thing about Six Nations in a World Cup year is that it’s even bigger and better.

I truly believe that in 2023 we will see the best World Cup in rugby history because there are three northern hemisphere teams that can win it – France, Ireland and England – and there are three big southern hemisphere sides that are always getting better.

The best way for a host nation to put a mark for the World Cup is to win the Six Nations – ideally with a Grand Slam.

It should be a fun tournament.

Steve Borthwick is the perfect head coach to lead England to victory in the Six Nations.

Steve Borthwick is the perfect head coach to lead England to victory in the Six Nations.


England can definitely win the Six Nations and the World Cup. The more I think about it, the more excited I get the appointment of Steve Borthwick as head coach.

I played for Borthwick in 2001 and was delighted when he was introduced by England when he talked about his time playing under me.

He talked about posters hanging on the walls that remind players of various aspects of our game, but most importantly, that we need to remember the basics. These are: lineout, scrum and reboots.

Borthwick was right when he said that England is not currently in the world’s top three in any of rugby’s key areas. This has to change and I believe it will.

Borthwick's appointment hopefully ushers in an era where coaching is not the main focus, as it did during Eddie Jones' reign.

Borthwick’s appointment hopefully ushers in an era where coaching is not the main focus, as it did during Eddie Jones’ reign.

It will be a big change in the Eddie Jones era, where the whole focus is on the coach and not the team. I hope the Borthwick era puts an end to the terrible rhetoric that symbolizes English rugby under Jones. If I had one wish for 2023 it would be to ban the terms ‘beginners’ and ‘finishers’.

What is absolutely vital is that Borthwick is given the chance to make his mark on the team and choose a roster that has been entirely chosen by him for the Six Nations.

When I read that Borthwick could only make five changes to the current major England roster due to Premiership and RFU rules, I was extremely disappointed. So it was encouraging to hear that both sides seemed willing to give Borthwick the green light to pick an entirely new team.

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A big advantage for Borthwick is that he has previously worked in a UK setup. He already knows the players and as a former Leicester coach he has a great knowledge of the Premiership.

The former Leicester coach's knowledge of the Premiership can be invaluable.

The former Leicester coach’s knowledge of the Premiership can be invaluable.

I am very excited for England’s first game against Scotland. Borthwick is in a good position to give the team an immediate improvement as the pressure is gone and after three disappointing years the only way up is to go up.

This is how the Jones era will be remembered, which is a shame. This should never have been allowed to happen.

England’s first two fixtures – Scotland and Italy at home – couldn’t have been better. If you win those two, I can see England doing well. I firmly believe that they can beat France at home.

England will not fall for Borthwick. They will get one game at a time. This may sound boring, but I have always advocated that you should prepare for your next match as if it were a World Cup final and a match that you have to win.

Britain was guilty of not doing this under Jones. Beating Scotland at Twickenham should be top priority, nothing more.

Ollie Hassell-Collins deserves to be called to England

Ben Earl can bring youthful vitality to Borthwick's crew

Ollie Hassell-Collins (left) and Ben Earl (right) would bring youthful vitality to the British order

Borthwick needs to capture who he wants in his first 15, especially the key 10, 12 and 13 positions. He needs to understand the culture correctly.

I would love to see ex-Premiership players like Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Earl given a chance and bring fresh, youthful vitality to the England setup. Since the 2019 World Cup, Jones has selected almost the same players regardless of club form.

I think that will change under Borthwick and his selection for the Scotland match is really an opportunity to put a mark.

I think Borthwick will rock Twickenham in 2023 and it would be great to see that after the sullen and dismal rugby England have produced recently.

No doubt Scotland would have preferred to see Jones sitting in the coaching box and not Borthwick.


French rugby is in a great place and in stark contrast to England. I do a lot of business in France and I know the people there are behind their team.

They have a World Cup to look forward to and Antoine Dupont and Shaun Edwards have one of the best players and best coaches on the planet. It could be a great year for them and I think playing at home in the World Cup is a huge advantage. 16. It’s like having a man.

I disagree that being at home puts extra pressure. If you’re the best team capable of winning a World Cup, then this should get water off a duck’s back.

Another advantage for France is that you can now choose their first choice team. Ireland can too, but England and Wales are not yet in that position.

Whoever wins the World Cup will have to beat France at home, and that’s a terrible prospect. However, I think England will do better at Twickenham in the Six Nations.


Andy Farrell has to prove he can realize his potential on Ireland's biggest stage.

Andy Farrell has to prove he can realize his potential on Ireland’s biggest stage.

Before the 2003 World Cup, I told my players in England that unless we won the Six Nations Grand Slam, we couldn’t even imagine winning in Australia.

This must be the message Andy Farrell sent his side.

Ireland has the record for peaking between World Cups and disappointing on the big stage. However, they are the best team in the world officially entering 2023 and I think they should not be afraid of the pressure of this position.

A top team with great players and a great manager. Now they have the opportunity to show it. Ireland has all the tools to become Six Nations and World Cup winners. But will they be able to go to Cardiff at the beginning of February and win? Against the Welsh side, which will be revived with the return of Warren Gatland, it will be a tough test for them. This game promises to be a great start for the Six Nations. Winning at the Principality Stadium and in Ireland will be full of confidence, but that’s by no means a guarantee.


The return of Warren Gatland brought a sense of optimism to the Welsh camp.

The return of Warren Gatland brought a sense of optimism to the Welsh camp.

The reinstatement of Warren Gatland is a fresh start. He brings stardust and an edge to the Welsh team.

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Wales were struggling under Wayne Pivac. You can’t expect to lose and survive at home against Italy and Georgia. Wales must make Cardiff a stronghold once again. There’s only one man in world rugby who can do that for them, and that’s Gatland.

If you’re not a good manager, you can’t have a set of gates in your own stadium with your name! I think Wales will aim for their home game this year and try to build from there.

Their first game against Ireland will be huge. Wales doesn’t have the depth of other countries and for Will Rowlands being outside the Six Nations is a huge blow. Gatland always talks about the Six Nations as a tournament of momentum, and he’s right.


Fin Russell is first class and will be a valuable asset to Gregor Townsend's side in the tournament.

Fin Russell is first class and will be a valuable asset to Gregor Townsend’s side in the tournament.

Gregor Townsend is now well placed as manager and has real talent at his disposal at all positions, including in the back with players like Finn Russell, Chris Harris and young Bath center Cameron Redpath. They can really fuel the tournament. Many become England teams. Russell is a great player and I hope he is now established as Scotland’s first choice.

Talking about her relationship with Townsend has been a constant distraction for me, it’s simple. Russell is the best half, so he needs to play. Scotland can beat any Six Nations side with him on their team. They did this against England last year and have had a good track record against them for the past few years. They will confidently travel to Twickenham for the 2023 opening.


For the Six Nations, I hope Italy wins a game like they did last year beating Wales. I never understood why there was no promotion and relegation clash for the championship. It would greatly improve him. But Italy is developing.

They beat Wales and Australia in 2022 but I wouldn’t read much of the Wallaby result as they had too many injuries. Italy will finish last again this year, but hopefully we will see a result and scare some teams. The threat of relegation will bring the best of them, and that’s what the Six Nations desperately needs.


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