English rugby 'debacle' as Bristol threaten legal action over Steve Borthwick

RFU announces the appointment of Borthwick as Eddie Jones's forwards coach - but his club have other ideas

Japan Forwards Coach Steve Borthwick
(Image credit: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)

Hopes that the appointment of Eddie Jones as England rugby coach would usher in a new era or efficiency and professionally at Twickenham look increasingly wide of the mark after Jones's visa problems, which delayed his start at Twickenham, were followed up by a new row over the status of coach Steve Borthwick.

The former England captain was named as one of Jones's coaching staff by the RFU yesterday, prompting a furious reaction from his club Bristol, who have threatened to begin legal proceedings to prevent him from taking up the position of forwards coach.

They claim England did not ask for permission to speak to their man and have refused to accept his resignation.

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A legal battle is now looming, says the Evening Standard. The paper reports that the RFU is "ready to go to court over Borthwick's contract, with Bristol having made what Twickenham officials believe is an outrageously high demand for the former Saracens and England captain's services".

The RFU insist they have not "stumbled naively into this potentially-damaging row", writes Chris Jones for the Standard, and have been negotiating with Bristol "for weeks" over a deal.

"The Union have been prepared to pay a substantial six-figure sum to secure Borthwick, whose recently-signed 18-month deal with the Championship club is worth less than £250,000, even offering a job-share solution until the end of the season," he reports.

Will Greenwood told Sky Sports that his former England colleague had been put in an "invidious position" by his club, who he says are determined to get as much money as they can from the RFU.

Nevertheless the impasse is yet another "debacle" for the England rugby team, says Gavin Mairs of the Daily Telegraph.

"The controversy erupted just hours after Northampton had expressed their disappointment in the RFU for making direct contact with their backs coach Alex King rather than making a formal approach to the Premiership club," he adds.

Whoever is to blame, new England set-up is already embroiled in a club v country dispute, says Sam Peters of the Daily Mail, and reflects badly on the RFU.

"Tuesday's shambolic handling of Steve Borthwick's 'appointment' as forwards coach followed an absurdly drawn-out review process which concluded what everyone knew already: [Stuart] Lancaster and his coaching team had to go.

"Why has it taken so long to get to this point? It is symptomatic of a Union which has tried to be too clever by half.

"Jones is the right appointment, perhaps at the wrong time. But this all should have been cleared up six weeks ago at least...

"They now have an almighty fight on their hands with Bristol, one of the richest clubs in Europe, for the services of their coach. All those millions generated by the World Cup are in danger of being frittered away on legal fees and payouts."

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