Heineken Cup 2014: Steve Borthwick fit to captain Saracens
Heineken Cup 2014: Steve Borthwich is fit to captain Saracens against Toulon at Millennium Stadium
Steve Borthwick has recovered from a chest injury to lead Saracens in their first Heineken Cup final against Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon on Saturday.
The Saracens captain was described as 50-50 to make it after picking up what director of rugby Mark McCall described as a “significant injury to his pectoral muscle” in their Aviva Premiership semi-final win over Harlequins.
But Borthwich—who like his Toulon counterpart is set to hang up his boots at the end of the season— has proven he is fit to take his place in the second row alongside Alistair Hargreaves.
Joining the former England lock in the pack are English duo Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens as the props either side of hooker Schalk Brits.
Scotland captain Kelly Brown starts on the blindside with big tackling Namibian Jacques Burger at openside and England wrecking ball Billy Vunipola at number 8.
The only change to the Sarries team that secured a place in the Premiership final sees Richard Wigglesworth preferred to Neil de Kock at scrum-half to partner Owen Farrell with Brad Barritt and Marcelo Bosch starting in the midfield.
There are no surprises in the back three with Alex Goode lining up at full-back with David Strettle and the tournament’s leading try-scorer this season, Chris Ashton, on the wings.
Wilkinson—the tournament’s top points-scorer this season—will lead Toulon in what will be his final match on British soil as the French club look to become just the third club to retain Europe’s premier title to set up the chance of a double ahead of next week’s Top14 final against Castres.
Boasting four Rugby World Cup winners in their starting XV with another on the bench, Toulon’s all-star line-up sees former All Black Carl Hayman line up at tighthead with Xavier Chiocci on the loosehead and Craig Burden at hooker.
South Africans Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw link up in the second row ahead of flankers Juan Smith and Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe on the blindside and openside respectively with Steffon Armitage at number 8, setting up what should be a ferocious battle with his opposite number.
In the backs for Toulon, scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde partners Wilkinson in the half-backs with French tank Mathieu Bastareaud continuing his partnership with Australian Matt Giteau in midfield.
South Africa’s Bryan Habana on the left wing and Drew Mitchell on the right with former England international Delon Armitage at full-back.
Toulon: Delon Armitage; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana; Jonny Wilkinson (captain), Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Craig Burden, Carl Hayman, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith, Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe, Steffon Armitage.
Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Alexandre Menini, Martin Castrogiovanni, Ali Williams, Virgile Bruni; Maxime Mermoz, Michael Claassens, Jocelino Suta.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, David Strettle; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Schalk Brits, Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick (captain), Alistair Hargreaves, Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Jamie George, Richard Barrington, James Johnston, Mouritz Botha, Jackson Wray; Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson, Chris Wyles.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)