Borthwick content needing to lead by example
Steve Borthwick will captain England for the 17th consecutive Test in the opening Six Nations clash against Wales on February 6 -- but doubts still remain about his long-term future in the role.
Boss Martin Johnson yesterday stopped short of confirming Borthwick as captain for the entire championship, preferring instead to highlight the depth of England's leadership options.
There is little doubt Borthwick's influence over the squad is held in the highest regard by Johnson, who has selected the Saracens lock as captain for every Test since taking charge.
When Borthwick leads England out at Twickenham against Wales only Will Carling -- with an unbroken run of 44 Tests -- will have captained his country in more consecutive matches.
But Johnson was only ever appointed as England captain on a game-by-game basis and he is taking the same approach with Borthwick, who he views as one of at least three potential candidates.
"The captaincy is an important role and Steve sets a great example for us -- but in any successful team there has been a group that take the leadership responsibility," said Johnson.
"We need a team that can survive losing any player. We have a better leadership group around Steve than we have had in my time.
"It's the strength of any side that you have three, four or five guys who could be captain. With guys like Jonny Wilkinson, Lewis Moody, Nick Easter and Simon Shaw, we are starting to have a core group.
"If you are reliant on any one player, captaincy or playing-wise, then it is a weakness."
Borthwick insists he is content with fighting for his place in the side on a week-to-week basis, rather than being appointed for the duration of the championship.
"You have to earn your place in the team," he said. "I have been playing as well as I can for Saracens to put myself in the best possible shape for England."