Steve Borthwick insists he had no hesitation over picking Owen Farrell as England captain after tackle trouble

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

Steve Borthwick insisted he had no hesitation selecting Owen Farrell once the England captain’s Six Nations availability was cleared up by the RFU.

New head coach Borthwick has installed 103-cap playmaker Farrell as his captain, with Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes as the deputies.

Farrell has the green light to start England’s Six Nations campaign after the RFU opted to release the 31-year-old for SaracensPremiership match against Bristol on January 28.

Farrell was banned for a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement, in a suspension that will run to three weeks once he completes World Rugby’s tackle school coaching program.

The stalwart fly-half will be available for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 4 only because the RFU have opted to release him from Test duty a week earlier.

The convoluted specifics of Farrell’s ban mean he would have missed the Scotland game had England kept him in their training squad in the week leading up to Saracens’ January 28 match against Bristol.

Critics have claimed the enterprise games the disciplinary system, but Borthwick insisted he must select the best available players.

“My point of view is that I’m England head coach, my job is to select the players that are available to me,” said Borthwick.

“The disciplinary system is run completely as an independent process, and I think we’d agree there should be that split. The England head coach and the disciplinary system should be completely separate, and that’s the case.

“I was informed unequivocally by the RFU’s legal department that Owen would be available for the first game of the Six Nations.

“Owen accepts his suspension and he can’t wait to be back on the field. I’ve known Owen since he was 18 or 18 years old as a player at Saracens.

“Now it's normal that when a 17 or 18 year old enters first-team training at the start of their careers, they are quiet, reserved. Owen's different. Owen came on to the training field and everyone was struck with awe by how hard he pushes himself.

“Everybody was also struck by how much he demanded of those around him. That's Owen, it's what he does and why he is captain of the England rugby team.”

New England defence coach Kevin Sinfield led Leicester’s approach to the World Rugby tackle school intiative while also working under Borthwick.

Rugby League great Sinfield insisted Farrell knows he has to improve his tackle technique, and vowed England will now work hard on sharpening that up.

 (Action Images via Reuters)
(Action Images via Reuters)

“Owen fully accepts he needs to change and is willing to work very hard at it,” said Sinfield. “The trio of leaders we’ve got are so inspirational in their own right, but Owen is desperate to improve every single day, as are Ellis and Courtney. The three of them together form an outstanding leadership group.

“Owen cares, I know he cares. Steve and I were talking about tackle height 18 months ago. We knew it was an issue within the sport, and we both absolutely support the measures that were in place.

“We discussed this early doors, and anybody who worked with me at Leicester will know how hard we went after tackle height. We want boys and girls up and down the country to take up our sport, we want parents to be happy that their kids are playing. So we absolutely support the safety measures.

“For us as a coaching team we believe it’s the best way to tackle. We will work hard right from day one on tackle height within our camp and within our squad.

“Our elite players will need to make some adjustments, but we do understand that we’ll make some mistakes along the way, as will the players. But how we handle that is going to be really, really important.”