Daily Mail

England hoping Girona’s La Liga success rubs off

Borthwick tries change of scenery with camp at Spanish club before Six Nations

- By CHRIS FOY Rugby Correspond­ent

ENGLAND will hope for positive omens and a break in the grim cycle of Six Nations false starts when they begin training tomorrow at the home of Spanish football’s surprise league leaders.

Steve Borthwick and his national squad are holding their pre-championsh­ip camp this year in Girona, north of Barcelona and close to the border with France. The head coach is convinced a change of scenery, away from England’s familiar base in Surrey, can create a change of fortune.

‘The Girona facilities are good,’ he said. ‘It’s only just started as a base to host teams. Girona train there and they move out for the week. They are top of La Liga.’

During Eddie Jones’s tenure England often relocated to the Algarve for a week before autumn or Six Nations campaigns, but Borthwick has opted for the far end of the Iberian Peninsula.

‘It’s a different venue where the team hasn’t been before,’ he said. ‘I’m intent that the team has a base we can go to regularly to train that offers what we need.

‘There are lots of things we are trying to do differentl­y from what we have done before. You can see that with the way the playing squad and the coaching team has changed. The programme is run a little bit differentl­y. Girona fits within that.

‘Make no bones about it, we are going to train exceptiona­lly hard, but off the field you need to be able to relax, recover and enjoy each other’s company. Girona is a great venue for that. When we are “on” I want the intensity, focus, concentrat­ion and intent to be as high as possible, but if I want to keep increasing that level you have got to relax in between.’

Girona’s base is linked to the Camiral Golf resort, which has hosted the Spanish Open three times. Borthwick is unlikely to allow himself too much downtime but is happy for his staff to facilitate rounds of golf for players who enjoy swinging a club — and there are several, including new captain Jamie George.

‘I’ve been very clear with the players, saying, “Your job is to perform on the pitch. If this helps you perform then brilliant. They did the same when we were in Le Touquet (England’s base at last year’s World Cup in France).

‘Players have changed. They are different and need to be able to relax and enjoy each other’s company. That is a real challenge, it’s something we take very seriously and we encourage them to do it. Girona offers us that opportunit­y. I trust the players.’

When England hold their first session tomorrow, Borthwick wants his squad to be primed and ready to go after a few days of rest. ‘I want the players desperate to get on the grass and throw themselves into this,’ he said.

The aim is to hit the ground running ahead of the clash with Italy in Rome a week on Saturday to avoid a fifth successive opening-weekend defeat in the Six Nations, after three losses to Scotland and one to France.

‘At times we have not jumped into this tournament and have been caught in that first game,’ said Borthwick. ‘ We are playing an Italy side that is tremendous­ly dangerous so we need to bring tactical alignment and incredible intensity to the game.’

Owen Farrell will not bring anything to the Six Nations but he will arrive in Paris in the next 48 hours to have a medical with Racing 92 after the French giants confirmed the move on Monday.

Farrell has signed a two-year deal and will join Racing from Saracens in July, but the club for whom the 32-year-old has played his entire domestic career are yet to announce their star player and captain’s departure.

Mail Sport understand­s that is because Mark McCall’s men are yet to receive a fee of around £ 500,000 from Racing to buy Farrell out of the final year of his contract in north London. Once Farrell passes his medical — and there is no suggestion that he will not — Saracens will receive the funds from Racing.

Former Wasps wing Christian Wade is a part of a star-studded Racing squad which includes South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi and England internatio­nal Henry Arundell.

‘The place is buzzing. Owen is one of the best. It’s great news,’ said Wade. ‘It will be brilliant to have him. Owen will really enjoy it here. We’re playing a different style of rugby. We are going pretty well as a team. We are top of the Top14 table.’

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