Former Leicester Tigers boss Borthwick has a habit of standing on ladders during England training sessions – but why?
Rugby fans with a sharp eye for the peculiar will have noticed England head coach Steve Borthwick’s odd tendency to stand on ladders during certain training routines.
As a man known for his disciplined ways, the fact the former Saracens captain regularly puts himself in such a dangerous position seems quite out of character.
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But, when placed in context, his use of a ladder actually makes a lot of sense. The 44-year-old’s ‘bad’ habit can be traced back to his first coaching stint in 2012, when he worked alongside Japan supremo Eddie Jones.
Borthwick’s main job in Tokyo was to work as the side’s lineout specialist, and he devoted himself to developing this area of play by focusing on the smaller details – such as hand positioning and lifting techniques. His efforts in this department eventually paid dividends at the 2015 World Cup, when the side remarkably defeated South Africa and produced the best set-piece of the competition.
Upon following Jones into the England camp in the same year, his new squad noticed a surprising addition to the inventory list: a step ladder. Borthwick would often stand on the top step to claim practice lineout throws.
This clever bit of innovation went even further ahead of the 2019 World Cup in Japan. As England’s forwards coach, Borthwick continued to help the squad practice their lineouts and his use of a step ladder was picked up by businessman Tom Kitching during that year’s Six Nations tournament.
Noticing the former England captain was struggling to maintain balance on his two-footed device, Kitching conjured up the idea for a new, uniquely designed ladder to be produced by his specialist firm Henchman. Created with three flat feet, the 10-foot-high ladder was sent to the RFU at Twickenham and went down a treat.
Henchman managing director Kitching was unsurprisingly delighted with his invention’s popularity, telling The Sun at the time: “I’m a huge rugby fan and I couldn’t help but notice in pictures of them training how they were just using step ladders for training at line-outs.
“So in the middle of the Six-Nations I sent them one of our tripod ladders which is specially designed and adjustable so it remains solid for the user to be properly balanced.
“After that tournament finished Steve Borthwick gave me a call to say how much of a difference it made to the forwards’ line-out practice.
“Looking at the pictures of England out in Japan, they have obviously taken it with them and I’m delighted that Henchman can play even such a small part in helping them in their preparations.”
Several Gallagher Premiership clubs have since followed Borthwick’s lead by purchasing these ladders, including Northampton Saints and Gloucester.
The ladder’s prominence has continued in the now-England head coach’s training repertoire and was sighted at last year’s Six Nations and World Cup. With that in mind, be on the lookout for the next time Borthwick takes a step up into the clouds.