Steve Borthwick has not given up on recapturing his England captaincy from Lewis Moody and wearing the armband on next month's five-match tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Borthwick had been managing a slight problem with his left knee going into the Six Nations Championship, but aggravated the injury during England's 15-15 Calcutta Cup draw with Scotland at Murrayfield on 13 March. That is how Leicester flanker Moody came to lead England for the first time against France in Paris the following week, and why Borthwick, 30, has been missing from the Saracens second-row during their Premiership run-in.
But according to the Saracens coach Andy Farrell, rumours of Borthwick's demise for the remainder of the season are premature.
"Steve was trying his best to be fit for the Leicester game tomorrow, " Farrell said yesterday. "If anything, maybe he pushed himself a bit too hard. But we will reassess his fitness next week.
"His rehab is going well. Steve knows he needs to reach a stage where he is comfortable being with the team. He was nearly there on Monday, but decided it was not 100 per cent.
"But nobody is working harder, the guy spends lonely hours in the gym, and I have seen him doing six or seven hours a day at the club, either working alone or with a physio towards full recovery.
"Steve is such a top pro that he will make sure everything is absolutely right before playing. He still wants to be involved in the business end of the season, and he certainly has not ruled out going to Australia and New Zealand with England in June," Farrell stressed.
"Everyone who knows Steve also knows that nothing gives him greater pride and pleasure than playing for England, so he will do everything humanly possible to return to manager Martin Johnson's squad.
"Right now, Steve is doing everything he can to play in the Premiership semi-final and, hopefully, the Twickenham final."
Saracens began the Premiership campaign with uncharacteristic purpose and consistency, winning nine and drawing one of the opening 10 games.
Inevitably, they hit a patch of poor form that reaped just one win from six. But just when critics began to believe Saracens had shot their bolt, that their pragmatic style based on immense defence and punitive kicking, both tactically and at goal, had been rumbled, two things happened – referees were ordered to favour attacking teams at the contentious breakdown, where for months cynical defence had ruled, and Saracens' rugby director, Brendan Venter, took off the handcuffs.
Newcastle were shredded 58-15 on 28 March and the momentum picked up just in time to cement a semi-final spot. Saracens must achieve a first win in their history at Welford Road, and hope London Irish beat Northampton, to earn then a home play-off semi-final with Saints on 15 May, otherwise it's back to Franklin's Gardens.
"We must go to Leicester with the fighting spirit we displayed in winning at Northampton," Farrell added. "It's something we've built up during the season and now that camaraderie is paying dividends."Reuse content