England won’t panic after Calcutta Cup setback, insists Lewis Ludlam

The Steve Borthwick era started with a defeat to Scotland.

Duncan Bech
Sunday 05 February 2023 12:34 GMT
Lewis Ludlam sees promise in England’s performance against Scotland (Adam Davy/PA)
Lewis Ludlam sees promise in England’s performance against Scotland (Adam Davy/PA)

Lewis Ludlam insists there is no sense of panic after England launched the Steve Borthwick era with a 29-23 defeat by Scotland that placed an early dent in their GuinnessSix Nations title chase.

Gregor Townsend’s side came out on top of a seven-try Calcutta Cup classic to post a third successive victory over the Auld Enemy and register consecutive wins at Twickenham for the first time in the fixture’s 152-year history.

England led by a single point heading into the final 10 minutes but the defensive frailty apparent throughout was exposed again when turbo-charged wing Duhan van der Merwe struck for the second time.

Although not the result to dispel the gloom present for the final year of Eddie Jones’ stewardship, there was much to admire about Borthwick’s first outing as head coach as the buzz returned to Twickenham.

“There’s no panic about that performance but it’s important that we build on that because we have Italy coming and we need to be better,” Northampton flanker Ludlam said.

“It was a proper Test match. It’s hard not to be frustrated with the result. A few of our mistakes let them into the game and that’s Test rugby, they punished us for those mistakes.

“In terms of how we want to play and the fight we showed, it was really encouraging from an England point of view.

“There’s a clarity about how we do things. I feel like this group is closer. There’s now a really deep, emotional connection over what it’s like to play for England.

“The boys want to fight for each other and for the coaches. It’s encouraging and while disappointing that we didn’t get the win, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Van der Merwe emerged as Scotland’s matchwinner by pouncing in each half, although debate will continue over whether his stunning first try owed as much to England’s defensive failings as his own individual brilliance.

The imposing Lions wing evaded five tackles during a run initiated from inside his own half as a combination of speed, strength and footwork swept him across the whitewash.

“Van der Merwe was a massive threat for them and he had a fantastic game. He really got them on to the front foot and we didn’t deal with that well enough,” Ludlam said.

“He’s a fantastic player and is very good at finding space. If we worked on our defence for the next two years, would he have made that break? I don’t know. It’s hard to gauge that.”

Like Ludlam, England’s two-try wing Max Malins was another player who had been marginalised by Jones yet was accommodated in the starting XV by Borthwick.

The Bristol-bound Saracen believes there was enough in the performance to place a spring in the step of supporters ahead of the round two clash with Italy.

“I’m sure fans went to the game not really knowing what to expect. Hopefully they can see that performance and look at the good in it,” Malins said.

“I am adamant there were some good things in there and hopefully that gets the fans excited.

“At the end of the day we get to represent our country and we’re proud to do so and want to make those fans happy. So that’ll be our aim in eight days time.”

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