Six Nations
Borthwick confirmed as England captain
January 25, 2010

England manager Martin Johnson has confirmed that Saracens lock Steve Borthwick will continue as his captain for this year's Six Nations.

Borthwick has led his country in every game since Johnson took charge but the England boss declined to confirm him as his captain when he announced his 32-man squad for the Championship earlier this month sparking speculation of a change in leadership.

However, Johnson confirmed that Borthwick would continue in the role as the England senior squad arrived in Portugal to prepare for their opening fixture against Wales on Saturday, February 6.

Johnson has also drafted in five players into the squad as injury cover with Worcester's Matt Mullan and Leicester's Dan Cole coming in for Sale's Andrew Sheridan and Leicester's Julian White. Elsewhere, Wasps' Dan Ward-Smith and Harlequins' Chris Robshaw join the squad as cover for Leicester's Tom Croft and Wasps' Joe Worsley, who is out for at least the first two games, and Leicester's Ben Youngs gets a call up in the place of club-mate Harry Ellis although he will return to the England Saxons squad to prepare for Sunday's game against Ireland 'A'.

There are further concerns over forward James Haskell who injured his knee in Stade Francais' Heineken Cup loss to Edinburgh at the weekend with a decision on his fitness delayed until after a scan.

The front-row changes were inevitable with Sheridan still out of action after suffering a dislocated shoulder, while White is only just returning from a torn hamstring injury. The decision to select Mullan and Cole, ahead of the more experienced White, Duncan Bell and David Flatman, suggests England are looking firmly to the future. Injury denied Mullan a call-up in the autumn while the 22-year-old Cole has been rewarded for a strong run of form.

Johnson opened the door to the possibility he could change captains at his squad announcement two weeks ago. "Steve's done a great job but everyone is competing for places. That's the way it has to be and the way Steve would want it," Johnson said.

Borthwick has been criticised for his on-field captaincy - particularly when England lost their discipline last season and collected 10 yellow cards in four games - and his own international performances. Lewis Moody, England's one outstanding player during a miserable autumn campaign, and fit-again Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter were both tipped as potential captains. But those who work closely with Borthwick - particularly Johnson and Saracens boss Brendan Venter - have never been able to understand the criticism.

"We are a good rugby side because of Steve Borthwick," Venter said recently. "If we are going to end up having a great season and competing at the highest level it is because of Steve Borthwick. Steve is everything I want in a captain."


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