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Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 10:01 UK

Borthwick to lead England in NZ

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Martin Johnson explains his selection policy

New England manager Martin Johnson has named Bath lock Steve Borthwick as captain for next month's two-Test tour of New Zealand.

The 28-year-old will lead the side in the absence of regular skipper Phil Vickery, who has been deemed unfit to tour after tearing a knee ligament.

The 32-man senior squad includes six uncapped players.

Topsy Ojo, Danny Care, Jason Hobson, Dylan Hartley, David Paice and Nick Kennedy are the new faces.

Borthwick, who has 37 caps, had limited game time in the World Cup but was one of only two players to play in every minute of England's Six Nations campaign this year.

He captained the side in the victory over Italy when Vickery was ill and Johnson said he was the "obvious" choice to lead England in New Zealand.

"Steve is very well respected among the squad, an established international player and a very good leader," said Johnson. "He is a model player the way he approaches the game and was a natural choice to lead the squad.

"But lots of other guys have a leadership influence on the team. I think people always put too much emphasis on who is the captain."

Vickery was expected to miss the rest of the domestic season after tearing a knee ligament in mid-April but his rehabilitation is reportedly progressing well and he could even come into contention for the Guinness Premiership final, if Wasps qualify, on 31 May.

It was a very close call between Topsy Ojo and those who are on the Saxons tour

England manager Martin Johnson

"Phil is trying desperately hard to play again this season but we felt it wasn't the right call to go on an arduous tour," Johnson added.

Gloucester backs Iain Balshaw and Lesley Vainikolo, who both featured for England during this year's Six Nations, have been left out.

"I spoke to Iain, he was disappointed not to go but he took it very well," said Johnson. "We decided to take Mike Brown who we feel is ahead of him at the moment.

"We will be catching up with Lesley as a management and fitness team over the summer to try and improve him as a player."

The selection of wing Ojo, second row Kennedy and hooker Paice caps a fine season for London Irish after they reached the Heineken Cup semi-finals.

"It was a very close call between Topsy Ojo and those who are on the Saxons tour," said Johnson. "We felt he just edged it on performance, he's a very exciting player."

Wasps lock Simon Shaw has been left at home so he can recover from what Johnson calls "a number of medical issues".

606: DEBATE

"We felt it was best if he had a good off season and got himself in the best shape for another long season next year."

Hartley, 22, who was born in Rotorua, New Zealand, is in the senior squad for the first time despite spending all season in National League Division One helping Northampton win promotion to the Premiership.

The hooker was banned for six months last year for eye-gouging, which ruled him out of contention for a place in England's World Cup squad.

Bristol prop Hobson, who was added to the extended England squad for the Six Nations match with Italy in February, was last year banned for three weeks after punching Vickery in a league game.

The incident meant that Vickery was forced to miss the final two matches of last year's Six Nations.

Wasps wing Paul Sackey is named in the party despite hurting his knee against Leeds on Saturday, and is undergoing "intensive rehab" before undergoing a scan to determine any damage.

However, London Irish fly-half/centre Shane Geraghty does not make it as he requires surgery to fix an injured shoulder.

Newcastle centre Toby Flood, who is leaving the Falcons at the end of the season, will travel to New Zealand despite carrying an ankle injury.

Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley
Hartley has impressed the selectors despite playing in Division One

Johnson has also decided to recall Bath centre Olly Barkley, Harlequins wing David Strettle, London Irish scrum-half Peter Richards, Wasps lock Tom Palmer, Harlequins full-back Mike Brown and Wasps flanker Joe Worsley.

Barkley is back in the squad after missing the Six Nations because of an impending court case.

He was charged with assaulting a fellow guest at a wedding although the charge was subsequently dropped.

Worsley, who has been capped 65 times, missed the entire Six Nations but will battle it out for a starting position in a competitive back-row.

Brown is the only out-and-out full-back named in the party, although Johnson said that Mathew Tait would act as cover for that position.

One player who could feel unfortunate to miss out is Leicester wing Tom Varndell, who is instead in the England Saxons squad for the Churchill Cup.

Varndell has had an impressive campaign with the Tigers and scored a superb last-minute solo try on Saturday to put his side in the end-of-season play-offs.

"We felt that sending Tom to play with the Saxons would be better for him than picking him for New Zealand and not being involved," said Johnson.

"He will be the first replacement wing for the senior squad if needed."

Newcastle fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, Leicester flanker Lewis Moody and Tigers lock Louis Deacon were not available for selection because of injury.

Wilkinson is to undergo shoulder surgery shortly to repair a cartilage tear, while Moody is still recovering from the Achilles injury sustained in the opening match of the Six Nations.

Deacon is also unavailable with a back injury that has kept him out for the past month.

He still wants more time to make up his mind

RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew on whether former coach Brian Ashton will run the National Academy

With Johnson staying at home to be with his pregnant wife Kay, Andrew will head up a tour management party including coaches John Wells (forwards), Mike Ford (defence), Graham Rowntree (scrummaging) and Jon Callard (kicking).

No specialist backs coach has yet been appointed - "you want these things to happen quickly but sometimes they take time," said Johnson - and Andrew is working on the assumption "that we won't have an extra coach in New Zealand at the moment".

England depart on Monday, 2 June, the day after they play the Barbarians at Twickenham.

They take on the All Blacks in Auckland on 14 June, with a second Test in Christchurch the following Saturday, 21 June.

  • Former coach Brian Ashton, who led England to the World Cup final, has yet to decide whether to take the role of National Academy boss, despite the RFU saying more than three weeks ago they were confident he would accept the offer.

    "Brian still wants more time to make up his mind," Andrew said.


    England squad
    Backs: M Brown (Harlequins), P Sackey (Wasps), D Strettle (Harlequins), T Ojo (London Irish), M Tait (Newcastle), M Tindall (Gloucester), J Noon (Newcastle), T Flood (Newcastle), O Barkley (Bath), D Cipriani (Wasps), C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), P Richards (London Irish), D Care (Harlequins).
    Forwards: A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), T Payne (Wasps), M Stevens (Bath), J Hobson (Bristol), L Mears (Bath), D Hartley (Northampton), D Paice (London Irish), S Borthwick (Bath, capt), B Kay (Leicester), N Kennedy (London Irish), T Palmer (Wasps), T Croft (Leicester), J Haskell (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), M Lipman (Bath), T Rees (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins), L Narraway (Gloucester).

    Players not selected because of injury:
    J Lewsey (Wasps), S Geraghty (London Irish), H Ellis (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), J Wilkinson (Newcastle), L Deacon (Leicester), P Vickery (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester).

    England Saxons squad for Churchill Cup in USA and Canada:
    Backs: N Abendanon (Bath), A Allen (Gloucester), M Banahan (Bath), L Dickson (Newcastle), B Foden (Sale Sharks), P Hodgson (London Irish), A Jarvis (Harlequins), R Lamb (Gloucester), U Monye (Harlequins), O Smith (Leicester), T Varndell (Leicester), D Waldouck (Wasps).
    Forwards: S Armitage (London Irish), R Blaze (Leicester), A Brown (Gloucester), G Chuter (Leicester), A Clarke (Bristol), J Crane (Leicester), J Forster (Gloucester), T Guest (Harlequins), C Jones (Sale Sharks), N Lloyd (Saracens), C Robshaw (Harlequins), W Skinner (Harlequins, capt), G Skivington (Wasps), A Titterrell (Gloucester), R Webber (Wasps), D Wilson (Newcastle).




    see also
    Tour call-ups please Exiles coach
    13 May 08 |  London Irish
    Vickery ruled out for eight weeks
    16 Apr 08 |  London Wasps
    Moody ruled out of England tour
    28 Mar 08 |  Leicester
    Ashton 'will take new RFU post'
    18 Apr 08 |  English


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