Borthwick axed by England
July 1, 2010
Saracens lock Steve Borthwick has been axed from Martin Johnson's latest England squad © Getty Images
Steve Meehan Steve Borthwick George Chuter Dan Cole Paul Doran Jones Martin Johnson Courtney Lawes Lee Mears Ugo Monye Phil Vickery Ben Youngs
Steve Borthwick has been dropped from England's 32-man elite squad, for the 2010-2011 season, the RFU have confirmed.
England manager Martin Johnson has also axed wing Ugo Monye and centre Mathew Tait while lock Louis Deacon and hooker Lee Mears join them in being relegated to the second-string Saxons squad. Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs and prop Dan Cole are officially promoted into the seniors after establishing themselves in the Test team during England's tour of Australia and New Zealand. Wasps' uncapped centre Dominic Waldouck has also been included along with Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie and Gloucester prop Paul Doran-Jones.
Borthwick's fall from grace has been rapid and it represents a marked change in direction from Johnson and the England management. Johnson had stood by Borthwick in the face of widespread criticism over the last two years and the Saracens lock captained England for 20 consecutive Tests until he was sidelined by a knee injury. Borthwick, 30, missed England's Six Nations game against France followed by the summer Test series against Australia - and he has now paid the ultimate price.
From being a captain with 57 caps, Borthwick is now not considered to be among the top four locks in England with Attwood joining Tom Palmer, Courtney Lawes and the veteran Simon Shaw.
Lewis Moody successfully assumed the captaincy becoming only the second man - after Johnson in 2003 - to lead England to a Test win over the Wallabies in Australia. Fitness permitting, the Bath-bound flanker is now set to captain England into the 2011 Rugby World Cup - while Borthwick is fighting just to make the plane.
"Leaving Steve Borthwick out was a very hard decision," said Johnson. "He's done a fantastic job for England over the last couple of years and it's the most difficult call we've had to make. It is very tough on Steve but it goes to show the depth of talent we've got in that area.
"We want to build on what we've done this summer and a southern hemisphere tour that was hugely beneficial and a really positive experience for the group. We were able to give lots of opportunities to players and expose them to a high level of rugby."
Lawes brought a new dynamic edge to England's second row in the victory over Australia while Attwood impressed Johnson with his hard-edged performances for the midweek team. Mears and Monye both played Test rugby for the British & Irish Lions last summer but have been dropped to the Saxons after struggling to recapture their best form.
George Chuter overtook Mears in the pecking order during England's tour while David Strettle and Matt Banahan were both preferred to Monye. Tait has never succeeded in establishing himself in the England squad under Johnson and he has lost out to Waldouck.
Johnson had never seen Doran-Jones play when he was drafted into the squad as emergency cover in November but scrum coach Graham Rowntree named him as England's most improved player on tour. His inclusion means there is no place for Phil Vickery, though loosehead Andrew Sheridan has been included after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Fourie's opportunity to impress on tour was curtailed by injury after just 40 minutes but he has got the nod ahead of Steffon Armitage and fit-again Tom Rees to act as Moody's open-side understudy. England have opted for just two scrum-halves in Youngs and Danny Care and, notably, there is no place in either the seniors or the Saxons for Harry Ellis. The injury-plagued Leicester scrum-half is one of 11 changes Johnson has made to the last 32-man squad he named, ahead of the Six Nations.
England's selection was influenced by tour performances, where they used a total of 46 players over five matches. Phil Dowson, Dan Ward-Smith, Geoff Parling and Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw, who captained England's midweek team twice on tour, were all pushing for senior selection but have had to settle for places in the Saxons.
RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew also saluted the contribution from Borthwick and hailed the arrival of England's new generation. "Steve's done a fantastic job in a difficult period of rebuilding," he said. "He carried himself and the England team well and it was a very tough call (to leave him out of the senior squad). We've tried hard to create real competition and strength in depth. With so many young players coming through, all the players know they have to perform to hang on to their shirt."
England meet for a week's training camp at Twickenham from August 8 and then gather again ahead of their four autumn internationals against New Zealand (November 6), Australia (November 13), Samoa (November 20) and South Africa (November 27).
England Elite Player Squad 2010-11:
England Saxons Elite Player Squad 2010-11: