London – Former England captain Steve Borthwick has said he’s looking forward to working with former Wallaby boss Eddie Jones on a full-time basis when he becomes the forwards coach of Japan following his retirement.
The 34-year-old lock will finally hang up his boots and call time on 16 years of top-flight rugby after leading Saracens against Northampton in the English Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Borthwick spent a decade with Bath before now Japan coach Jones, then in charge of Saracens, brought him to the north London side in 2008.
The veteran forward helped coach Japan last year for two Tests against Wales culminating in a 23-8 win – their first victory over the principality – in Tokyo.
“The club (Saracens) is incredibly supportive of giving players opportunities to develop their interests after (playing) rugby,” said Borthwick, speaking at Saracens’ training ground in St Albans, north-west of London, on Tuesday.
“For the last couple of years Eddie gave me an opportunity to be involved with the Japan rugby team and that relationship has grown.
“He then asked me to join the team on a full-time basis once I retired from playing.
“It was an opportunity to work under a fantastic coach like Eddie Jones and learn, which has already been great for my development,” said Borthwick, who won 57 England caps.
“While I’ll no longer be on the field myself, to hopefully assist players in their own development, that appeals to me.”
Last weekend Japan qualified for next year’s World Cup in England by beating Hong Kong 49-8 and Borthwick insisted the Brave Blossoms were going places.
“I think the group is an exceptionally ambitious, hard-working group that is eager to learn.”
Japan are also due to stage the 2019 World Cup, the first time the tournament will have bee played outside of one of rugby union's traditional strongholds and seen by many as an important staging post for the Asian game.
But Borthwick said he wasn't sure if he would still be involved with Japan in five years’ time.
“At this point in time I’m contracted to coach them through this World Cup and the next period of time. So we are looking at the next couple of years, I’m not thinking beyond that.”
Saracens boss Mark McCall, whose side were beaten 23-6 by star-studded French side Toulon in last Saturday’s European Cup final in Cardiff, insisted Borthwick had all the attributes required of a top-class coach.
“He’s very analytical, which is critical, but Steve manages people well. That’s the most important thing,” McCall said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Jones told AFP in Tokyo that having Borthwick on board would be a huge boost for Japan.
“He’s a guy who’s played over 300 Premiership games, captained England 21 times and he’s just retiring from the game so he brings all this modern knowledge of how to win the line-out and general forward play.
“He was the first signing I made (at Saracens) and he’s helped change the club.
“When I first went to Saracens in 2006 they were in the relegation zone and now they’re in the top two clubs in Europe, which is a fantastic achievement and the consistency of all that has been Steve Borthwick as captain.”
If Japan, who have appeared in every World Cup to date but won just the one match, qualify out of a 2015 Pool B also featuring South Africa, Samoa, Scotland and the United States, they could end play England in the quarter-finals.
But for Borthwick, a patriotic Englishman, that’s a dilemma for another day as he bids to lead Saracens to a repeat of their 2011
Premiership title success.
“Whilst I know what I am doing after this point in time, until Saturday I am a rugby player with Saracens,” the second row explained.
“I owe it to my teammates and friends to ensure they have my full attention, my full focus.
“They will have everything of me. I will give absolutely everything to my teammates until I finish.” – Sapa-AFP