Borthwick backed as England captain

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The Independent Online

Saracens boss Brendan Venter built a strong case for Steve Borthwick to be retained as England captain after tonight's commanding 28-9 Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Toulon.

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 RBS 6 Nations.

Johnson left the door open for a change in the balance of his second row following the promotion of dynamic Northampton lock Courtney Lawes.

But Venter tonight hailed Borthwick's qualities as both a leader and a player after Saracens kept their qualification hopes alive against Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon.

Saracens are top of the Guinness Premiership table and Venter said: "We are a good rugby side because of Steve Borthwick.

"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."

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."