Johnson hails axed captain Borthwick
ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson admits dropping long-standing captain Steve Borthwick from his 32-man elite squad has been the hardest decision of his coaching career.
Johnson installed Borthwick as skipper upon taking over in 2008 and stuck by him for two years, despite vociferous criticism of the Saracens lock’s international performances.
But Borthwick’s injury in March has allowed Johnson to audition second-row alternatives such as Northampton’s Courtney Lawes and Gloucester’s Dave Attwood, who both impressed on last month’s tour of Australia and New Zealand.
And that prompted Johnson to axe his former England colleague – a move that also almost certainly ends the 30-year-old’s hopes of playing in next year’s World Cup.
“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.”
Bath’s Lewis Moody is expected to retain the captaincy on a permanent basis, having shone as Borthwick’s stand-in against France in the Six Nations and then delivered a Test win over Australia on their own soil.
Borthwick drops to the Saxons squad, along with Harlequins wing Ugo Monye, Sale centre Mathew Tait, Leicester lock Louis Deacon and Bath hooker Lee
Mears. Joining Lawes and Attwood in Johnson’s top four locks are Tom Palmer of Stade Francais and Wasps veteran Simon Shaw.
ENGLAND | ELITE PLAYER SQUAD
FORWARDS: D Attwood, G Chuter, D Cole, T Croft, P Doran-Jones, N Easter, H Fourie, D Hartley, J Haskell, C Lawes, L Moody, T Palmer, T Payne, S Shaw, A Sheridan, S Thompson, D Wilson, J Worsley
BACKS: D Armitage, C Ashton, M Banahan, D Care, M Cueto, T Flood, R Flutey, B Foden, S Hape, D Strettle, M Tindall, D Waldouck, J Wilkinson, B Youngs