Borthwick keeps his job even if England fail in the Rugby World Cup pool stage | England rugby union team

Steve Borthwick is expected to retain the support of the Rugby Football Union and keep his job as England’s head coach even if his side are eliminated from the World Cup in the group stages, the Guardian understands.

England begin their season against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday on a low note, having lost three of their four warm-up games and five of their last six games. Under Borthwick, England have won just three of nine games, scoring 30 tries, and go into Saturday’s game against the Pumas as underdogs.

However, given England’s desperate preparation for the tournament, Borthwick is rated at 9/2 with one leading bookmaker to vacate the role before next year’s Six Nations and 20/1 to vacate the post before the end of the World Cup.

Borthwick signed a five-year contract until the 2027 World Cup when he was appointed in December following the sacking of Eddie Jones, and at the time the governing body’s chief executive Bill Sweeney insisted the RFU was undertaking a “long-term rebuilding programme”. He also said that Borthwick would not be set any tangible targets but that it would be a “game by game” assessment, having said after the 2019 World Cup final that England should be consistently ranked among the top two in the world.

After their first defeat against Fiji last month, England ended up eighth in the world rankings in France. The RFU didn’t even open the top flight at Twickenham for this game, ticket sales were so slow, which would have raised alarm bells given the importance of sell-out home games to the union’s finances.

However, the RFU spent around £1m buying Borthwick and his defense coach Kevin Sinfield out of their Leicester contracts after handing Jones a sizeable severance package, and with the RFU expected to fall in income by £40m this year, a sacking would be a possibility from Borthwick expensive. More importantly, however, the RFU’s long-term mindset has not changed and that it still sees Borthwick’s appointment as a long-term project even if England fail to move up from its pool. When England were eliminated from the tournament they were hosting before the knockout stages in 2015, Stuart Lancaster subsequently resigned as head coach.

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When Borthwick was appointed in December, Sweeney said: “World Cups are hard to win and sometimes you need the green too, so we wouldn’t set excessive targets for the World Cup. “This is a long-term rebuilding program and we want to restore England. We have spoken about how this will be a new era for England, to ensure we lay the right foundations for the proper development of English rugby.”

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