sport news CHRIS FOY: Stats add up for Borthwick's new-look England with more metres, ... trends now
Steve Borthwick is known for his in-depth use of data, so the new England head coach will have been encouraged by statistical evidence of progress in his first Test — despite the grim result.
Losing 29-23 at home against Scotland was not part of the master-plan. Borthwick and his squad were deflated by a third successive Calcutta Cup defeat and the failure to launch the new era in winning fashion at Twickenham.
But there was some optimism amid the frustration and that is justified by indications that they have already made significant strides, following the calamitous autumn campaign which led to the sacking of Eddie Jones.
In the aftermath of the Six Nations opener, Borthwick laid bare the scale of the mess he had inherited, saying: ‘When I looked at the team in the autumn, when I measured the team and got all the data for the team, we weren’t good at anything.’
So how did his side match up to the one which stuttered through the November series? Based solely on the data, they appear to have undergone an attacking transformation, which is a tribute to the impact of Nick Evans, who is on loan from Harlequins. If he continues to be such a positive influence, Borthwick will surely try to retain his services far beyond this championship.
England were deflated by the failure to launch the new era in winning fashion at Twickenham
The stats which leap out are those which show that England made many more runs and gained many more metres than they did in November.
Even when they put a half-century of points on Japan, they were not anything like as productive in taking the ball forward as they were against Scotland.
The hosts managed more than 100 additional carries compared to that one-sided clash with Japan. They also made more than twice as many metres as they did in the defeat against South Africa, the last fixture before Borthwick took charge.
However, England did not rip through Scotland with X-factor running from deep. The visitors’ defence was magnificent, so their rivals had to do it the hard way.
There were only two English line-breaks, yet they still managed to open up Gregor Townsend’s team to claim three tries, reward for their ability to maintain possession high up the field.
England’s territorial supremacy — on the back of long, in-field kicking — was emphatic. Their 71 per cent territory figure was far above anything they managed in November. There were also far more passes than they managed in any of the autumn Tests.
So England, despite 13 handling errors, were able to sustain pressure through their