Surprise return by Borthwick boosts Bath and Ashton

If a player wants to stay fit for the second half of a domestic campaign - particularly one shoehorned into eight months rather than nine as a result of a forthcoming World Cup - he should get himself injured during the first half. Ask Steve Borthwick; ask Matt Salter. Both return to serious activity this weekend after lengthy periods of incapacitation and, if their mindsets are anything to go by, they will make someone pay for their sufferings.

Borthwick's sudden reappearance for Bath at Harlequins this afternoon sheds the brightest of lights on the decision of Brian Ashton, the new England head coach, to name him in a second-string squad for the A internationals now looming on the horizon. The lock has been out of sight and out of mind since wrecking a knee in September, but it is safe to assume he will be promoted to the elite party the moment he strings some meaningful games together. An unusually intense and hugely motivated sort on any given day of the week, he is now a coiled spring in human form. No player enjoys missing his fix of thud and blunder, but Borthwick's privations will ultimately prove of benefit to England.

Salter is not considered international material but he means the world to Bristol, who currently hold a one-point lead at the top of the Guinness Premiership. Like Borthwick, he is a first-out-of-the-trenches kind of leader who would never dream of demanding deeds of others without showing a willingness to perform them first. On the face of it, Bristol have not missed him. They are, after all, on a golden run. In reality, they have mourned his absence since he dislocated his shoulder in mid-October.

The leaders play Northampton at the Memorial Ground tomorrow afternoon and it if they fail to squeeze the life from the Midlanders as they have squeezed it from every visiting team since the start of the season - only Saracens have escaped with so much as a draw - the shock will be measured on the Richter scale. Northampton are in a state, and there is no obvious sign of them transforming their fortunes any time soon.

They are a weird lot, for sure. In Paul Grayson, they have one of the more resourceful young coaches in the English game; in uncapped forwards like Pat Barnard and Darren Fox, they have rich potential at both ends of the scrum. They have been stripped bare by back-line injuries, to the extent that the problems now affecting their high-class scrum-half Mark Robinson must seem like a conspiracy, but even so there is no sound reasoning behind their current plight.

By losing at home to Worcester on New Year's Day they have placed a small depth charge under their own rear ends - and those belonging to Newcastle, too. Instead of choking the bottom club to the point of death, the Saints resuscitated them. Worcester have three winnable home games ahead of them. There is life in the relegation issue yet.

Newcastle, full of bright young things outside the scrum and packed with nothing much up front, could certainly use a victory over Leicester at Franklin's Gardens tomorrow, but the odds are very much against it. The visitors will travel brimming with righteous anger, having seen Martin Corry relieved of the England captaincy and Andy Goode removed from the international equation altogether.

Goode starts at outside-half, having struggled for form in recent weeks. Corry, who missed the victory over Saracens five days ago, is back as skipper. John Fletcher, the Newcastle coach, does not necessarily believe Corry has anything to prove, but he fears him anyway.

"He has been an outstanding player for Leicester and England for a long time - one of the top forwards in the country for a decade," Fletcher said in paying his respects to the world champions' latest lost leader. "He has umpteen caps, a World Cup medal, countless Premiership titles. Every time he pulls on a Leicester shirt, he is a massive presence." All true. It is enough to make you wonder why Ashton chose to demote him.

* In last night's Magners League matches, Newport-Gwent dragons gained a valuable 19-12 win against Munster and Edinburgh beat Llanelli Scarlets 24-14.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup