February 24, 2024

The players' responsibility to bring England fans back into the arena – Freddie Steward

He called Freddy Steward England To win back Twickenham's support as they begin a new era by taking on the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday Wales.

In their last home match, Steve Borthwick's side were booed by fans after losing 30-22 to Fiji in the lead-up to the 2023 World Cup – the first time the team had lost to the Islanders.

Keen to dissipate the funeral atmosphere last seen at Twickenham, Jimmy George's England side are determined to reconnect with their support by delivering results and showing ambition and passion.

Fiji players celebrate the final whistle after their win over England at Twickenham in August

Fiji players celebrate the final whistle after beating England at Twickenham in August (David Davies/PA)

Fans rallied behind the team during their run to third place in the World Cup and flocked to Roma for Saturday's narrow win over… ItalyBut Steward knows it is the support they receive in south-west London that is crucial.

“Coming home also means we are a new group,” the Leicester full-back said.

“This is basically a new beginning. We have played the World Cup and we are at the beginning of a new phase with new faces and new coaches. This is our chance to draw a line in the sand.

“As players when you play for England you are expected to win, and when you don't win it's understandable that you don't have the fans on your side and there was a bit of that in the warm-up for the World Cup.

“I would never blame the fans and say they need to lift us up. They do it on the back of what we do, so the responsibility falls on us.

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“During the World Cup when we got to the semi-finals, I felt like this is what it could be like. As players we want that all the time but we have to perform on the pitch to earn it.

“The fans are the heart of what we do. We want Twickenham to thrive and we want it to be a place we want to go and play in front of our fans and represent them.

England's tactics during the first year of Borthwick's reign were conservative as he tried to field a team that could compete in the World Cup just nine months after replacing Eddie Jones as head coach.

The emphasis on kicks and a stats-based approach turned off many fans, but at the Olympic Stadium there was more grit and desire to attack from their own half.

“There's a mental aspect in terms of being a little braver by attacking off the line and trying to challenge the opposition, which gives them something to think about,” Steward said.

“We were probably guilty early on of being too one-dimensional in terms of teams knowing what we were going to do.

“But by developing the attack, we hope it will ask a few more questions of the opposition. The more time we have together, the more useful it will be.

“For us as players, we want to play winning rugby. Whatever the style, we want to win test matches, we want to win championships and have successful campaigns.