Borthwick urges courage and fire

Captain Steve Borthwick has outlined the values on which he will attempt to build another world-beating era for English rugby - courage, ruthlessness and a driving ambition to be the best. [more]

Borthwick urges courage and fire

Captain Steve Borthwick has outlined the values on which he will attempt to build another world-beating era for English rugby – courage, ruthlessness and a driving ambition to be the best.

Borthwick knows England will need all three qualities in abundance if they are to begin that era by inflicting a first home defeat on New Zealand since Martin Johnson’s warriors triumphed in Wellington in 2003.

It was Johnson, England’s new team manager, who appointed Borthwick as captain of a new-look squad selected with the 2011 World Cup firmly in mind.

The challenge over the course of four years is to replicate England’s all-conquering team from 2003. But the challenge this weekend is to open that new era with a defining victory in Auckland.

"Martin Johnson asked me to captain because of what I do," said Borthwick.

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"I try to be as professional as possible and influence others around me as positively as possible.

"It is a tremendous honour for me to be captain but you also need key leaders around you who fit in clearly with the values you want the team to be part of.

"First and foremost, when you come down here it is formidable and you have to have courage to take New Zealand on.

"We have got to be relentless in the way we approach the game because this New Zealand team will expose any mistake.

"And we have got to be ambitious in the way we try and play. We have to set our goals high.

"Challenges don’t come much bigger than this one and it is very clear that we will have to be at the best of our ability this weekend.

"That has been very clear in our preparation. It has underpinned everything since we came together as a squad."

Borthwick made his international captaincy debut at short notice in the RBS 6 Nations victory over Italy in Rome after Phil Vickery fell ill the night before the game.

This time the plan is for it to become a long-term appointment and that poses him different challenges.

"During the Six Nations I was involved in the senior player group and had a leadership role there. There is a certain amount I need to step up," he said.

"But the requirement of me is to prepare well and to play well. That is the first and foremost thing I have to do. Martin Johnson used to say his first requirement as captain was to play well."

The constant theme emanating from the England camp this week has been the importance of treating the All Blacks like any other opponent, to forget the aura of the jersey and the haka.

England have only beaten New Zealand away twice in 45 years – in 1973 and 2003.

The All Blacks played with immense physicality in monsoon conditions against Ireland last week and Borthwick expects them to be far more dangerous on Saturday.

"They will be even better against us this weekend," said Borthwick.

"Having had that game and another week’s preparation together, I think they will be an even stronger outfit this weekend."

New Zealand have made just one change from the win over Ireland, with Greg Somerville returning at tight-head and charged with stopping Andrew Sheridan.

The bulldozing England prop is the sole survivor of England’s World Cup final team from eight months ago and there are only four left from the win over Ireland in mid-March.

It has been a radical changing of the guard. Not one of the England side that runs out at Eden Park in early on Saturday morning are over 30 and they lack Test experience in key areas.

Winger Topsy Ojo makes his debut in a back three boasting just seven caps between them, while Tom Rees, James Haskell and Luke Narraway form a dynamic but inexperienced loose-forward trio.

But Borthwick cannot think of a better way to launch a new era than against the All Blacks in Auckland, with the potential to create a slice of rugby history.

"This is the best England has to offer and it is exciting to be part of that. This is a great opportunity for this England team and I am tremendously excited by the challenge," said Borthwick.

"I can’t put into words what it would mean to me if we could win this weekend."

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