New England coach Steve Borthwick will be drawing on an unlikely source of inspiration as he takes charge of his side for the first time in this weekend's Six Nations opener - former Stoke City manager Tony Pulis.
Borthwick has had a remarkable rise to the top job in English rugby, having retired from playing in 2014 and going on to work under his predecessor Eddie Jones for Japan and England, in between spells at Bristol and most recently as head coach at Leicester Tigers.
But, as he looks to lead his new-look side to a first victory over Scotland in three years, it has emerged that Borthwick has confided in Pulis since he took the Leicester job and has spoken to the Welsh manager on a weekly basis to learn from his experiences.
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Before replacing Jones in the England hotseat, Borthwick had said that he had "two or three people outside who I speak to on a weekly basis," adding: "You have to be very selective, but I’m fortunate I’ve got wonderful people who are willing to help me on my journey."
One of those individuals has been identified by the Telegraph as Pulis, who also coached in the Premier League with Crystal Palace and West Brom and most recently took charge of Sheffield Wednesday. Pulis, from Newport, has been regularly linked with the Wales manager's job.
While keen not to steal Borthwick's thunder, the 65-year-old admitted he had become a sounding board for the England boss, but had also learned a lot from him too as their relationship blossomed.
"I help people, because I enjoy it," Pulis admitted. "I learnt a lot from Steve, going up and watching Leicester train, talking to him. I was just a bystander helping out a very good man."
The pair first met through Eddie Jones, who had asked to observe West Brom's training as he worked on improving his England squad, with Pulis soon returned an invite to watch the rugby team in practice.
As Pulis recalled, he and Borthwick had a "wonderful chat", with the England boss also invited to the manager's Dorset home to discuss his plans in more detail.
"His philosophy and attitude were pretty set. What he wanted to do was feed off me a little bit in respect of the experience I’d had at all the levels I’d worked at," explained Pulis.
"When he left, I remember telling [my wife] Deb how impressive he was. He's picked up so much... but he's clever enough to have thrown away the rubbish and kept the good stuff.
"I’m a fully paid-up member of the common sense party and Steve was on the same lines."
After being left "so impressed" by Borthwick's "extraordinary" accomplishments with the Tigers, Pulis was quick to congratulate him on securing the England job following Jones' dismissal, admitting: "I rang him up and said the most important thing now is to make those in the press your best friends."
But yet while he is hoping to see his friend succeed in this weekend's Calcutta Cup clash and with their push for the Six Nations, the proud Welshman knows where his loyalty lies.
"Apart from when they play Wales, I wish him all the best," he stated..
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