England coach Steve Borthwick stresses captain’s important contribution
England head coach Steve Borthwick says it is important to recognise how special Owen Farrell is after naming him as captain for the Six Nations.
Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes have been selected as vice-captains.
But despite the scrutiny on Farrell, who is currently banned for a high tackle, Borthwick has no doubt he remains the right man to lead the team.
“It’s important to recognise everything Owen does, and has done, for English rugby,” Borthwick said.
He added on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast: “The first senior game of rugby I saw him in was at Saracens, a pre-season game when he on the bench at 17 years old.
“He was desperate to get on and play and help his team. I sensed from that moment this guy is special.
“Right now he is unable to play and that is gutting for him.
“He understands why that is the case but anybody who knows Owen knows he will work his socks off to get it right.
“So whether that is goal-kicking, tackling or leadership, he will work his socks off to get things right.”
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‘As far as I’m concerned Owen is available’
Farrell copped a four-match ban for his dangerous tackle against Gloucester, reduced to three games once he completes World Rugby’s tackle technique course, and will return in time for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland at Twickenham on 4 February.
But the terms of Farrell’s suspension are contentious, with the Rugby Football Union gaming the system by announcing they would have released Farrell back to Saracens for a Premiership match he would never have realistically played in.
“On Friday last week I was informed unequivocally by the RFU’s legal department that he was available for the start of the Six Nations,” Borthwick explained.
“From my point of view my job is to select and coach the players available to me.
“As far as I’m concerned Owen is available.”
While Borthwick has distanced himself from the disciplinary process, he says the environment at England will improve the tackle technique of the whole squad.
“In [defence coach] Kev Sinfield we have the right man who is going to improve the tackle skills of all our players,” Borthwick added.
“We want our players to go out there and fight and compete but also do it in a manner that is fair – we want 15 players on the pitch.”
‘I want players in form’
Meanwhile, Borthwick will be adopting a no-excuses culture as he seeks to turn England around after a poor autumn.
After an encouraging tour of Australia in the summer, Eddie Jones’ side won just one game in four in November and looked bereft of tactical clarity.
Borthwick, appointed four weeks ago as Jones’ successor, will have a fortnight with the players in camp before hosting a buoyant Scotland – who have won three of the last five Calcutta Cup encounters.
“I’ve been asked a lot of questions about time, and players who are injured,” Borthwick continued.
“I don’t want to talk about that. I am going to make the most of every minute.
“I want players that are playing well. And when you look at this squad you would say a lot of those players are playing really well in Premiership and European rugby.
“One thing is clear is we have got people competing to be in this squad, and people desperate to represent their country.
“That excitement and determination is there, and what we have to do is then harness that in the time we have, to be prepared.
“So when the players walk out of that tunnel in 19 days’ time, [they are] feeling prepared against what I imagine is going to be a very confident Scotland team.”