English Rugby
Venter backs Borthwick's credentials
January 15, 2010
Saracens captain Steve Borthwick talks to his team, Worcester Warriors v Saracens, Guinness Premiership, Sixways Stadium, Worcester, England, November 27, 2009
Will Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick retain the England captaincy for this year's Six Nations? © Getty Images

Saracens boss Brendan Venter believes lock Steve Borthwick is still the right man to spearhead England's Six Nations challenge.

Borthwick has led England in all 14 Tests since Martin Johnson took charge in 2008 - but he is yet to be confirmed in the role for the latest battle for the northern hemisphere crown that kicks off next month. "We'll name our captain as we get closer to the tournament," Johnson said earlier this week. "Steve has done a great job. Everyone is competing for places in the team. That's the way it has to be. And that's the way Steve would want it to be."

But speaking following Saracens' commanding 28-9 European Challenge Cup victory over Toulon, Venter hailed Borthwick's qualities as both a leader and a player. "We are a good rugby side because of Steve Borthwick," said Venter, whose side are challenging for honours in both the Premiership and the Challenge Cup. "Steve is everything I want in a captain. If you want a Courtney Lawes running with the ball, dummying, catching and passing that is something different. Every single game Steve is either the top contributor or second - and from a lock, it is amazing.

"In our last game against Leicester he made nine more contributions than anybody in the team and he only played 70 minutes. I texted him and said 'Amazing'. If we are going to end up having a great season and competing at the highest level it is because of Steve Borthwick."

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson was making his first club appearance on English soil since his move to Toulon but he lost the fly-half battle to Saracens' Derrick Hougaard. The South African scored 20 points from six penalties and a conversion following Justin Melck's try, scored from close range when Toulon were down to 13 men with both flankers in the sin-bin.

Toulon coach Philippe Saint Andre was frustrated by referee Neil Paterson but his side remain top of Pool Three and in the box seat for qualification. For Saracens to go through, they must beat Rovigo with their first four-try bonus point of the season and hope Toulon fail to do the same against Castres, who are already out of the tournament.

"The first half was boring rugby from both teams. In the second half we got two yellow cards and it was game over," said the former Sale coach. "Jonny did well. He was very good in defence. It was a difficult situation. The pitch was quite heavy and it was not a very high level game. He had a solid performance."

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