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Borthwick in no mood to bow to critics

DEFIANT England captain Steve Borthwick is refusing to back down over his controversial appraisal of the team’s performance against Italy.

Borthwick, whose side face Ireland tomorrow, prompted raised eyebrows when he described elements of England’s play during the 17-12 win in Rome as “fantastic”.

A workmanlike win drew little praise elsewhere, however, with even England players Mark Cueto and Nick Easter admitting it had been “boring”.

Former England skipper Lawrence Dallaglio went further, accusing Borthwick being disingenuous in his evaluation of the clash.

But almost two weeks later, and on the eve of England’s bid to make it three wins from three, Borthwick insists he was right to accentuate the positives.

“What I said afterwards is that there are clearly areas to work upon but we did a lot of good things and I think that too often we play down those things and look immediately for the negatives,” said the Saracens captain.

“We made numerous line-breaks. What we don’t hide from is that we have to convert those into points. We can make all the line-breaks we want but if we don’t cross the try-line they count for nothing. I still stand by the fact that there were lots of good things.

“I am proud of this team, I am really proud of the way they have worked. Pressure and criticism comes on this team but we are a tight group, we go out on the training field and work very hard. We know we want to be the best team we possibly can be.”

Grand Slam winners Ireland come to Twickenham somewhat crestfallen after a 33-10 defeat in France last time out, and Borthwick is expecting a reaction from Declan Kidney’s side.

“They are coming off a defeat and I am sure they will have put in a lot of hard work to bring their best performance to Twickenham this weekend,” he added.

“Ireland are a very good side, they are packed full of experience. They were Grand Slam champions last season and they know each other very well.”

Cueto, meanwhile has emerged as a doubt after falling victim to a stomach bug. The Sale winger did not train yesterday, prompting manager Martin Johnson to call up the uncapped Chris Ashton, of Northampton, as cover.