SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Everyone is beating England with a stick now but calamitous defeat to Fiji was years in the making, I feel sorry for Steve Borthwick

Everyone is beating England with a stick now. That includes the media but also the fans.

Saturday’s first defeat by Fiji in front of a very poor Twickenham crowd was a hugely sobering day for English rugby.

It was one that has been coming for years. The current predicament has not just happened overnight and it’s been left to Steve Borthwick to pick up the pieces.

I feel sorry for Borthwick that he is in this position but he cannot hide away. He cannot control what has happened with England in the past. But he can control the present and the future.

It is a difficult position to be in as a coach when it feels as if everything is going wrong. I’ve been there with England. The 1998 ‘Tour of Hell’ saw us hammered by each team we faced.

England suffered their first-ever defeat to Fiji on Saturday but such a shock had been years in the making

Steve Borthwick and his players cannot hide away from criticism but can only control the present and future

Back then, we were heavily criticised by the press and rightly so. If I was in Borthwick’s shoes now, I’d accept the media scrutiny and tell the players to do the same.

England can’t hide away from the fact they’ve been playing very poorly this summer.

This is where we will find out if Borthwick can step up and lead.

He needs to be strong in front of the media and deliver firm messages in the face of adversity. We haven’t seen that from him yet.

Borthwick needs to show his presence in public and prove why he is the right man for the job.

But in private, I think he needs to do two things to try to rescue England’s World Cup bid knowing that by beating Argentina in the first pool game, everything can be totally turned around.

You coach at international level for matches like the Pumas game where everything — and I do mean everything — is on the line.

The first thing Borthwick must do is look in the mirror and really analyse the game plan. England are playing far too conservatively. They kick way too often and do so even when they are in the attacking third of the pitch. Unfortunately, it’s boring to watch.

The result has not only been poor performances and results, but England fans voting with their feet. We saw that in the Fiji game with the top tier at Twickenham unsold. I never thought I would see that.

A sparse crowd at Twickenham on Saturday allowed the unselected England players had room to stretch their legs

A sparse crowd at Twickenham on Saturday allowed the unselected England players had room to stretch their legs

Borthwick has to take a look in the mirror and analyse England's game plan

Borthwick has to take a look in the mirror and analyse England’s game plan

Well done to Fiji, by the way. While all the focus is on England, they deserve plenty of credit for the way they played. The brutal truth for England is that the best team won.

My worry is that the England players will end up looking back on this World Cup with regrets.

This will be a last World Cup for the likes of Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ben Youngs, Dan Cole and possibly several other players. These guys have been great England servants.

It’s up to them — and England’s senior and experienced players — to step up and deliver. If they don’t, many of them will end their international careers as losers.

That would be such a shame.

This leads to the second point Borthwick must address. He must — as a means of motivation — privately question the performance levels of his players.

Against Fiji, Marcus Smith came on and added some energy to the team from the unusual position of full back but no other player could have left Twickenham saying they had a good day at the office.

That is a damning indictment of the team’s display.

Test rugby is about winning. Playing well is an added bonus. It’s no surprise then that with the team losing matches, the players don’t look like they’re enjoying things.

Only the players will know if they’re disillusioned with Borthwick’s game plan. It is a tricky position to be in because as a head coach, you can’t be dictated to by the players.

Very few of England’s players could have claimed they had a good day at the office on Saturday

But Fiji deserve credit for the way they played, the better team won on the day

But Fiji deserve credit for the way they played, the better team won on the day

But at the same time, empowering your squad — or at the very least consulting its senior figures — is an important part of modern coaching.

Borthwick had success with his style of play at Leicester. But it is not working at international level. That much is undeniable having seen the Six Nations and England’s four World Cup warm-ups.

I really hope Borthwick has the coaching capacity to react and evolve the way he operates to help get England back on the path to success.

If he doesn’t, the misery of the summer will likely continue when England get to France.