France v England, Six Nations, March 20
Moody to captain England
March 19, 2010
Flanker Lewis Moody will lead England for the first time against France in Paris © Getty Images
Lewis Moody will captain England for the first time in their final Six Nations clash against France after Steve Borthwick was ruled out with a knee injury.
Borthwick aggravated a long-standing problem in his left knee during England's 15-15 draw with Scotland last weekend and has failed to recover in time. As a result his 20-Test run as England captain, dating back to when Martin Johnson took over the national side, has come to an end. Louis Deacon will replace Borthwick in the second row with Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer, who last played for England in 2008, preferred to Courtney Lawes on the bench because of his lineout expertise.
The decision to promote Moody to the role comes as surprise with the flanker having only just reclaimed his place in the starting line-up. The 31-year-old Rugby World Cup winner, who will swap Leicester for Premiership rivals Bath in the summer, has been capped 60 times by England since his 2001 debut against Canada and also has three British & Irish Lions Tests to his name.
Johnson had no qualms about handing Moody the captaincy but emphasised that the team benefits from an experienced leadership group. "Lewis is an inspirational figure in the group and he will bring us that energy and dynamism. There is a core group of leaders and we could have chosen two or three guys. Mike Tindall has just come back as a senior player and Nick Easter is a leader at No.8.
"Steve's injury is worse than we first thought and he is out for us this week. Louis will start and Tom Palmer comes on to the bench. We brought him in because of his lineout ability. The good thing about captaincy now, more than 18 months ago when I got the job, is that there is a core group of leadership there.
"He [Moody] was happy to come and do it. The guys just want to play well and be successful. The good thing is there is no egos. Steve has no ego about being captain. It is all about the team and trying to win. If I thought anyone wanted to be captain for the wrong reasons, they wouldn't be captain. We thought he was a good call for this week."
Moody has limited captaincy experience with Leicester and the prospect of leading his country had not occurred to him until Borthwick's injury proved to be worse than initially feared. "You don't get asked to captain your country very often. Without doubt it will be the proudest moment in my England career," said Moody. "To be asked under whatever circumstance to captain your country is a huge honour. What a day, it will be amazing."
After 14 years at the top Moody believes he has gained enough knowledge and experience to be able to make the important calls when the pressure is on tomorrow night and insists the captaincy will not change his aggressive approach to the game.
"I think for me the most important part of being a captain is to play the game the way I do," he said. "It will not change me. I will just play the way I do. I will not talk more than I have done. If I need to say something I will do but there will be no Churchillian speeches.
"I have been part of this squad for a long time and you have a role as part of the leadership team to voice your opinion when needed. I voice my opinion anyway. If you play the game long enough you hope you can make the right decisions in those key situations. If you play long enough to get a feel for things and I have experienced players around me like Nick Easter and Mike Tindall.
"The coaches make the decisions and we as players have to go with it. I couldn't be happier at the minute. Last week was different and we will find out what happens after this," said Moody. "But all I am bothered about is the game tomorrow and doing everything I can to win it."
Johnson would not confirm the exact nature of Borthwick's injury and it will not be until next week that anyone can be clear how bad the damage is to the knee. "It is one of those things which could be a long-term thing or it could be over very quickly," said Johnson. "It is frustrating for him that he is missing the game and he can't get a black and white (decision) but that's the human body."
England left for Paris today with Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie, Bath winger Matt Banahan and Bath prop David Flatman as back-up. London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage had been due to travel but withdrew with a shoulder problem.
Revised England team: B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Brive), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), L Deacon (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester, captain), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), T Palmer (Stade Francais), J Haskell (Stade Francais), B Youngs (Leicester), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Tait (Sale Sharks)