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Borthwick turns to Wigglesworth and Walters for England’s World Cup push

Borthwick turns to Wigglesworth and Walters for England’s World Cup push

  • Leicester coaches to come into setup at end of the season
  • Cockerill leaving after Six Nations to join Montpellier

Steve Borthwick has again turned to his old club Leicester Tigers to bolster his coaching staff with Richard Wigglesworth and Aled Walters joining the England setup before the World Cup.

Wigglesworth, 39, retired from an illustrious playing career when put in interim charge of the Tigers in December but will link up with Borthwick again as an assistant coach at the end of the season. Walters – who was a key member of the South Africa backroom staff when the Springboks won the 2019 World Cup – will also join as head of strength and conditioning.

Both appointments were announced by England on the same day it was confirmed Richard Cockerill – currently overseeing the scrum and the only surviving member of Eddie Jones’s coaching panel – will leave at the end of the Six Nations. As a result, Borthwick will head into the World Cup this year with a hand-picked set of assistants and, having granted his wish to take Kevin Sinfield with him as defence coach, the Rugby Football Union has gutted the Premiership champions Leicester of four coaches in a matter of months.

The RFU would not elaborate on Wigglesworth’s remit beyond “assistant” but he is expected to oversee the attack. Nick Evans is currently in place as the interim attack coach for the Six Nations and neither he nor his club Harlequins have ruled out extending his secondment for the World Cup but Wigglesworth’s appointment casts doubt on that prospect.

Dispensing of Evans’s services would be a risky strategy by Borthwick, however, given Wigglesworth would have only the four warmup fixtures in which to imprint his attacking ideas before England’s World Cup campaign. Equally, giving his players yet another attacking system to learn so close to the tournament would hardly represent the clarity Borthwick is so eager to impart.

“Richard and Aled are two outstanding coaches in their fields who I know very well,” said Borthwick. “Richard has been a proven winner throughout his playing career and has carried this into his coaching career. He already has international coaching experience, from the 2019 Rugby World Cup, alongside a hugely successful playing career and has amassed a wealth of knowledge.

Richard Cockerill

“Few people have such an in-depth, wide-ranging view and understanding of the tactical element of the game. He is a proud Englishman who has represented his country and is desperate to see us win, he will show he really cares about this team.”

Welshman Walters is a canny appointment by Borthwick, following the departure of Jon Clarke from the RFU. He was highly thought of by the Springboks and Leicester players have been similarly glowing in their praise.

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“Aled is an excellent performance coach who had an incredible impact with the Rugby World Cup holders, South Africa,” added Borthwick. “Wherever he has worked, players improve. I have never met anyone who is able to get more out of players than he does.”

Cockerill, meanwhile, will follow Matt Proudfoot, Brett Hodgson, Martin Gleeson, Danny Kerry and Clarke out the door following Jones’s departure with Saracen’s scrum coach Ian Peel the favourite to replace him.

Cockerill revealed he had wished to stay for the World Cup but that he felt he could not turn down Montpellier’s advances. “This opportunity presented itself some time ago and it was too hard to turn down personally and professionally,” he said. “It is disappointing not to work with Steve and the wider team beyond the Six Nations. I had hoped to be able to stay for the Rugby World Cup, but the timings weren’t meant to be.”

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