Borthwick back for Saracens
May 25, 2010
England lock Steve Borthwick is fit to lead Saracens in Saturday's Guinness Premiership final © Getty Images
Saracens have received a timely boost with the news that captain Steve Borthwick has been passed fit for Saturday's Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham.
The England lock has been out of action since aggravating a knee injury in the Six Nations draw with Scotland at Murrayfield on March 13. However, he has been cleared to start in the Sarries second row against the Tigers.
"It's fantastic to have such a world-class lock back in the mix," Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter said on Tuesday. "Steve will start because he's trained really well with us. We're very happy to have him back and it will be good for the team.
"It was also for Steve's sake - it's not every day you get to a final. It would be crazy not to use him. We wanted him back a little bit earlier. He had planned to come back for the Leicester game earlier this month and then for Northampton.
"He spoke to me last week and I said if he could train last week at full pace then we would consider him for selection. When I sat down with the coaches the over-riding opinion was that it would be wrong not to use a world-class player for the final."
Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed that Venter's appeal against a 14-week touchline ban which threatens to banish him to the stands for this weekend's final will be heard on Wednesday evening in London.
The South African was suspended until August 24 after being found guilty of making provocative or inappropriate gestures towards Leicester fans during his side's Guinness Premiership regular season victory at Welford Road earlier this month.
However, Sarries chief executive Edward Griffiths remains adamant that Venter, who was cleared of pushing a female Leicester fan at the original inquest into his behaviour on May 8, has been harshly treated.
"We lodged our formal papers requesting an appeal this morning," he said. "Three things are categorically accepted even by the original hearing. One is that Brendan didn't push anyone, secondly he didn't swear and thirdly he didn't make any obscene gestures at anyone. Taking all of that into account we feel a 14-week ban that means he misses the showpiece of the year is disproportionate."
Griffiths also expressed his dismay that Sarries, since the arrival of Venter and a host of South African players at Vicarage Road last year, seem to be attracting as much attention for what they are doing off the field as on it.
"We regret the perception that we're doing (controversial) things deliberately because it runs contrary to the values of our club," he said. "There's probably a perception of the South Africanisation of Saracens that's just wide of the mark. It doesn't exist.
"We have a significant number of South African players and a South African director of rugby but the character and core of the club remains English. Just look at the players we've produced through the academy. The soul of this club remains emphatically English. The idea that we're South African raiders trying to tear up the fabric of English rugby is nonsense.
"We don't seek confrontation with anybody but if something appears to be wrong we are within our rights to say so. If we have gained any notoriety then it's not deserved. We're as enthusiastic for the values of English rugby as anyone."
Griffiths also reiterated his claim that Venter is being victimised for being passionate and brutally honest when it comes to expressing himself before, during and after games.
"What's he done wrong? He spoke out against referees in December, in a way which many members of the media did until positive changes to the law took place," he said. "And he literally stood up at Leicester because he couldn't follow play in one corner of the ground at Welford Road.
"We don't want to be the brash, naughty boys of English rugby but we just feel he should be allowed to be part of the final. We hope common sense will prevail. He deserves to be at the final."
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