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Hodgson: Saracens skipper Borthwick will be hard to replace

Saracens' Charlie Hodgson (left) and club captain Steve Borthwick, who will retire at the end of the season Saracens' Charlie Hodgson (left) and club captain Steve Borthwick, who will retire at the end of the season

Wednesday, December 4, 2013
3:41 PM

Charlie Hodgson admits that the retiring Steve Borthwick will be a hard man to replace, but he says Saracens have players who are capable of filling the void.

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Club captain Borthwick, 34, announced last week that he will hang up his boots at the end of the current campaign.

The second row, who earlier this season became only the second man to pass 250 Premiership appearances, provided a vital assist at the weekend, shoving lock partner George Kruis over the whitewash for the winning try as Sarries came from behind to beat Sale Sharks 24-19.

Hodgson, 33, says that it is the unseen things in training that will be missed the most when Borthwick is no longer around.

“I’m sure it will be difficult to replace him,” said the Premiership’s all-time points scorer. “It’s not what he does on the field, a lot of it is what he says off the field in training, during meetings and how he puts his point across in meetings.

“That is something that, as a team, we are very lucky to have at the moment.

“He [Borthwick] is one of these guys that has unbelievable knowledge on all aspects of the game and his work-rate is unbelievable, so to replace that is difficult but we do have guys here who are certainly capable.

“Whether that takes a year or two to get to Steve’s level, I don’t know but he’s a hard man to replace.

“George Kruis hangs around him a lot so hopefully he can take on some tips from Steve.”

Kruis has modestly suggested that the job of filling the void on the pitch will come down to the entire group of second rows.

The youngster said: “Steve brings a lot of strength to the line-out and leadership department – but with myself and Al Hargreaves, who are both line-out callers, hopefully we’ll be able to take that on.

“Mouritz [Botha] as well, he’s popped something in his ankle and will be out for six to eight weeks but he’ll be back soon enough.

“We have got four other good locks with Eoin Sherriff coming through, and he’s a quality player.”

Kruis revealed that the news of Borthwick’s retirement didn’t entirely come as a shock to the Sarries squad.

“Everyone in the group is quite close so we already half knew, but he’s been a great servant to the game,” he said. “It’s good that he wants to go out on his own terms. He is number one lock, a great captain and leader.

“For me and the other second rows, it’s a privilege that we can learn from him, but we’ve got the rest of the season to deal with and that’s what everyone’s focused on.”

Borthwick, who won 57 England caps and captained his country 21 times, said in a statement last week that “very few players have the chance to retire on their own terms” – and Hodgson admits that is a blessing.

“It’s nice to have that,” said the No10, who scored 14 points against his former side Sale at the weekend. “I’m sure he’ll miss the game and we as a club will miss him here.

“He’s a tremendous leader and, more often that not, the team functions better with him in it than when he’s not.

“Credit to a guy who has played that much rugby and is still going on. I think his body is starting to fall apart as well, but he’s an unbelievable leader for us, a great player and a great servant for the club.”

Hodgson is also in the twilight of his career but he said: “I feel fine, I feel good and I’ve missed the first part of the season through injury so, as far as games go, I’m fresh.

“The hits and the games take their toll slightly more now at my age, as anybody in their thirties would agree with. I feel happy and am enjoying my rugby, which is the main thing.”

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