Borthwick backs stand-in captain

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The Independent Online

Steve Borthwick, an outgoing England captain who cannot bank on coming straight back in, has narrowed his horizons on the international front. "If I'm not captain again, I'll support the guy who is," the Saracens lock said yesterday, 48 hours after agreeing with the red-rose manager Martin Johnson that there was no point taking risks with his troublesome knee on the forthcoming tour of Australia. "I just want to play for England. What I really want is to play for a successful side, one that wins a lot of Tests. Anything else is an additional privilege."

Borthwick has not played since the Calcutta Cup draw at Murrayfield in March, thanks in no small part to a recent setback in his recovery programme that kept him out of his club's Premiership run-in and has deprived him of a place in this weekend's semi-final at Northampton. "My job now is to get my knee right," he said. "I'm disappointed, of course: my first England tour, of South Africa in 2000, was a wonderful experience and these trips don't come along every day. But I do have an injury and I need to deal with it."

Nathan Hines, one of the second-row forwards who beat Borthwick to a place on last summer's Lions tour, is also off the international roster for a while. Hines has been given what amounts to compassionate leave and will return to Australia, his homeland, to help nurse his ailing mother-in-law rather than accompany Scotland on next month's two-Test tour of Argentina.

Andy Robinson, the head coach, hopes to build on his side's strong finish to the Six Nations by winning in Puma country for only the second time in Scotland's history, and is sticking with the vast bulk of his squad. The most significant change sees Ben Cairns, the Edinburgh centre, left out in favour of the uncapped Jim Thompson.

Leeds have signed the wing Michael Stephenson from Bath. However, the most striking transfer news of the day came from France, where Paris-based Racing-Metro 92 succeeded in signing the Argentine outside-half Juan Martin Hernandez, the so-called "Maradona of rugby". Hernandez has recently been playing in Durban with the Natal Sharks.

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