Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

McCall hails unfashionable hero Borthwick

By Nick Purewall

Steve Borthwick should be held in the same esteem as Jonny Wilkinson and Brian O'Driscoll, according to Mark McCall.

Saracens lock Borthwick, Toulon fly-half Wilkinson and Leinster centre Brian O'Driscoll all retired after club finals on Saturday.

England World Cup-winner Wilkinson guided Toulon to the Heineken Cup-French Top 14 double in his final game, with O'Driscoll going off injured but part of Leinster's Pro12 victory.

But former England captain Borthwick was unable to stop Northampton claiming the Aviva Premiership title with a 24-20 extra-time victory at Twickenham.

Saracens rugby director McCall believes unfashionable Borthwick has not always received due recognition – but said the 34-year-old has produced a career to rival world totems Wilkinson and O'Driscoll.

"I don't know whether people will see it that way where Steve is concerned, but he should be considered in similar regard to those other two who are retiring as well, shouldn't he?" said McCall.

"The record Premiership appearance holder, more than 50 caps for England: he's squeezed every ounce out of his body over a 16-year period.

"I think he deserves it but I'm sure he might not receive that same level of recognition."

Alex Waller's extra-time try sealed Northampton's first ever Premiership title at Twickenham on Saturday, with Saracens frustrated by a try for Owen Farrell being awarded by referee JP Doyle, before being reviewed and chalked off.

Former Ulster coach McCall hailed Saracens for improving again across the course of the campaign, despite ending it empty-handed.

"It's been a brilliant season for us, but it certainly is unbelievably disappointing for us that it's ended this way," said McCall.

"There are two competitions we're interested in: this and the Heineken Cup.

"This was our fourth final in five years, we've been in seven semi-finals of those competitions, we talk about consistency a lot and we've brought that to the competitions.

"And I know this group of players, I know this will be painful, but it won't be a setback, because a setback occurs if you're less together, less tight, less hungry to improve.

"I think we've definitely improved in the last 12 months, the evidence is there for everyone to see."

* Ireland forwards coach John Plumtree will stand down after the forthcoming tour of Argentina, the Irish Rugby Football Union has confirmed.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph