Saracens lock Steve Borthwick has been appointed England captain by new team manager Martin Johnson.
Borthwick, 29, takes the reins on a full-time basis from Phil Vickery having stood in as captain for England’s ill-fated summer tour to New Zealand.
England face a demanding autumn international schedule, with Tests against the Pacific Islands, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
Johnson said: “Firstly, I’d like to thank Phil Vickery for everything he did for the team while he was captain.
“Like Phil, Steve is a good leader and always prepares thoroughly for all his matches at club and international level and I’m looking forward to working with him.
“I won’t be giving Steve a specific amount of time in the job. I just want to support him as much as possible and I know he will enjoy all the responsibility and work that comes with being captain of England.”
Considering Johnson asked Borthwick to lead England on such a demanding trip as this summer’s venture to New Zealand, today’s announcement came as no surprise.
Johnson knows the honest qualities Borthwick brings to a team environment having been in the England squad together ahead of the 2003 World Cup.
Borthwick captained Bath for three seasons before moving to Vicarage Road in the summer, where he is co-captain with Andy Farrell.
Borthwick first skippered England against Italy in Rome during last season’s RBS 6 Nations Championship after Vickery was taken ill on the eve of the game.
“My three games as England captain have been away from home so to lead the team out at Twickenham will be a special moment,” said Borthwick.
“But my overriding aim is to help England get off to a winning start in the Investec Challenge series.
“I really enjoyed the week we had together in August and it showed what a good squad we have and that will hold us in good stead as we prepare for four very challenging games, starting with the very tough Pacific Islanders on November 8.
“The squad and the coaching team is excellent and I’m really looking forward to our preparation and the games over the next four weeks.”
One of Johnson’s priorities now he is in charge of England is to grow a leadership group that can support Borthwick.
Wasps flanker Tom Rees is seen in many quarters as a future England captain while the likes of James Haskell and even Danny Cipriani have been mentioned in dispatches before.
But there are concerns, expressed recently by former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio, that the modern professional game does not develop enough decision makers.
Johnson knows he needs to build a senior player group that is full of players with playing and captaincy experience if England are to reclaim their place on top of the world.
When Johnson lifted the 2003 World Cup he was supported by the likes of Dallaglio, Richard Hill, Matt Dawson, Neil Back, Will Greenwood and Jason Leonard.
No England captain has ever had to deal with events like those which unfolded around Borthwick in New Zealand.
Johnson clearly believes Borthwick can set the right example to a youthful England squad - and Saracens’ director of rugby Eddie Jones yesterday hailed his leadership qualities.
“He has done a marvellous job for us, just with his competitiveness. He is so serious about his rugby,” said Jones after Saracens’ EDF Energy Cup win over Northampton.
“I wasn’t going to play him but he wanted to play. Then I was only going to play him for 40 minutes and he wouldn’t come off the field.
“That is the sort of commitment you want and if Martin does make him captain and surrounds him with three or four people of the same likeness of mind, that is going to be important.”