England v Wales, Six Nations, February 6
Borthwick issues role model reminder
February 4, 2010
England captain Steve Borthwick smiles during a press conference, Pennyhill Park Hotel, Bagshot, Surrey, England, February 4, 2010
England captain Steve Borthwick smiles as he talks to the media at the team's training base © Getty Images

England captain Steve Borthwick has issued a reminder to his team-mates that they have a responsibility to act as role models.

Speaking in the wake of his football counterpart John Terry's fall from grace following allegations about his private life, Borthwick explained the importance placed within the England rugby squad on setting the right example to the next generation.

"After games and open training sessions, you see guys like Jonny Wilkinson and all the players signing autographs for hundreds of kids," said Borthwick. "All the players have a responsibility. They all understand they are helping other young rugby players come through. If you are not captain you still have that responsibility."

The Saracens lock will lead England for a 17th consecutive international in Saturday's Six Nations clash against Wales at Twickenham. Only Will Carling, with an unbroken run of 44 Tests, has done it more often. And Borthwick does not believe the standards demanded of a captain should be any different to those responsibilities placed on the shoulder of any international player.

"Captaining England is a great privilege for me. When Johnno asked me to captain the side it was a great honour. I am the same whether I am captain of the team or not. I bring my hard work, intensity, attention to detail and leadership.

"You seem to think that because I have captain after my name I have got to act differently or be different around the group. Johnno (Martin Johnson) has asked me to captain the side because of what I do. It would be a dangerous path for me to change because I have got captain after my name."

The only scrutiny Borthwick has faced since taking over as captain in the summer of 2008 has been for his leadership of the England squad on the field. "Thankfully very few people (stop me in the street and say 'you are Steve Borthwick, England captain'). Living in London I am a very anonymous person," he said. "While I am honoured to be captain I have never said it is about me. While I am singled out because I have captain after me in the match programme and I lead the side out, a leadership group is very important.

"We are developing a leadership group of some stature when you think of Lewis Moody, Jonny Wilkinson, Mark Cueto, Simon Shaw. The success of any side needs a strong leadership group."

In related news, Borthwick's second row colleague Simon Shaw has backed the squad to transform England's fortunes following a crucial summit meeting with manager Martin Johnson. The veteran Wasps lock joined a delegation of players in urging Johnson and the England coaching team to discard the tactical straight-jacket they had imposed during the autumn.

"That meeting was hugely important," Shaw said today. "I think successful squads are ones where everyone has their input and there is an open forum for players and coaches to communicate freely amongst each other and get ideas out there. This is probably the most open and honest squad of any I have been in.

"We have given all our information and advice to the coaches. They have accepted our point of view in some regards, and it is up to us now to put everything we have said on the pitch. If we don't do that I am sure they will give us a clip."

England have been given a licence to thrill but Borthwick insists there will be no let-up for in the battle for possession at the breakdown, where Wales boast one of the game's most astute scavengers in Martyn Williams.

"It is a big challenge this weekend with the strength of Martyn Williams and others who will be hard on our ball," said Borthwick. "It has been a focus of our preparation. When it comes to the breakdown every one of us has to be very efficient to make sure we get the ball so we can attack well as a team.

"We want to deliver. We have spoken as players about delivering the performance on the field, which is every one of us playing to the best of our abilities and for 80 minutes. We all know that going out this weekend - and every weekend when you are playing for England - it is about delivering the best performances we can when playing for England."

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