'Boring' Borthwick the logical choice
Oh no, not Borthwick again.
That seemed to be the gist of the reaction among the majority of England supporters to the news the Saracens captain will lead his country into battle for the 18th time against Wales at Twickenham a week on Saturday.
There were no eulogies from Martin Johnson, who has defended his skipper to the hilt ever since appointing him to succeed the stricken Phil Vickery for the ill-fated tour of New Zealand in the summer of 2008.
Not a word from the boss man in fact. Just a one-line statement on an RFU press release communicating details about England's preparations in Portugal this week and a list of players called up as cover:
'England team manager Martin Johnson has confirmed that Steve Borthwick (Saracens) will captain the team.'
Borthwick will lead out England for the 18th time, on the occasion of his 54th cap, against Wales on 6 February
So why the largely negative reaction on the messageboards?
Why does the revered Johnno continue to put his faith in Borthwick and find his judgement questioned by former internationals, pundits and supporters alike?
An objective analysis of what the 30-year-old brings to the party might conclude that any decision other than to reappoint him might have been deemed the height of folly.
As a line-out leader, he is one of the best in the business in Europe.
According to official stats, England lost precisely one - yep, one - of their 49 line-outs in last year's Six Nations, a figure that reflected exceedingly well on the man whose job it is to ensure the operation runs smoothly.
Such is Borthwick's perfectionist nature - "I'm never satisfied with my lot and am always searching for improvement" he admits - that one lost ball probably kept him awake for nights.
The man who will join Borthwick in the boiler room against Wales - Simon Shaw - has many attributes, and a wonderful all-round skill-set - but making the calls and running the line-out has not been one of them.
Louis Deacon often does the job for Leicester, but is unlikely to play ahead of Shaw, while Courtney Lawes' Test experience to date consists of 12 minutes as a replacement against Australia in November.
The loss of Tom Croft, the other main line-out target, means that dropping your other protagonist in that area would have made no sense at all, especially against a Wales side notoriously flaky in that department.
If Borthwick can exert his usual influence there, England may be at least half-way to winning the match.
Saracens' director of rugby Brendan Venter is fond of pointing out that Borthwick is always among the top two contributors, statistics wise, in every club match he plays.
He makes his tackles, hits rucks, does a major share of the dirty work in the tight phases. It would be interesting to hear his stats on ball-carrying, one of the areas most visible to fans, and not conspicuously one of Borthwick's strengths.
But it is difficult to find a team-mate or coach who doesn't praise his integrity, dedication and worth ethic. 'A model professional' is the refrain.
"The thing you have to remember about Steve Borthwick," said one former team-mate at his old club Bath, "is that the poor sod doesn't have a life. Anyone who knows that much about line-outs should get out more."
That may explain, in part, why Borthwick - a politics and economics graduate - is not a favourite of the media or supporters. He is a disciple of the 'learn the lessons, look for the positives' school of pre- and post-match psycho babble, he doesn't deliver good quotes for journalists, he doesn't ooze X-factor star quality.
And of course he is not Martin Johnson, the yardstick by which all England captains are now measured, regardless of the circumstances.
Call it the Martin Corry syndrome. With his battle scars etched ever deeper on his battered face after each morale-sapping loss, the Leicester trojan came to represent the red rose decline post-2003, an honest toiler rather than a top-of-the-bill act.
The main problem, as it was for Corry, is not Borthwick himself, but the dearth of class around him.
The stark truth is that seven years on from conquering the world, England no longer possess a single world-class player, if you define 'world-class' as someone among the top two or three in their position globally, a contender for a 'World XV'.
Johnson, in attempting to demystify his own leadership, has been at pains to reiterate that a captain is only as good as the players and lieutenants around him.
Lest we forget, Johnson had Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Leonard, Neil Back, Richard Hill and Matt Dawson - who all captained their country - around him at the coalface and thinkers of the calibre of Will Greenwood and Mike Catt calling the shots behind, not to mention a Jonny Wilkinson in his prime.
Borthwick has no such luxuries. Sure, Wilkinson is still there, and remains an influence on those around him, but his own game is far more prone to inconsistency.
Where are the alternatives? First and foremost a captain has to be a guaranteed pick, and apart from Lewis Moody, how many others can you say that about after England's autumn series?
Moody has been mooted as an alternative leader, and certainly came to the fore during November, holding court in the post-match huddles on the Twickenham pitch, as did Steve Thompson on his return to the fold.
Moody is inspirational in the way he plays, and a player others are happy to follow, but could he detach himself from his head-down, body-on-the-line approach to be the cool calculator in the heat of battle required at the highest level?
The return of the experienced Nick Easter at number eight should help take some of the strain off Borthwick, but the Harlequins man is the wrong side of 30 and there is no guarantee he will hold off the challenge of more youthful, dynamic alternatives.
Hooker Dylan Hartley has matured as captain of Northampton this season, but has his hands full at present holding off the challenge of a fit-again Lee Mears and Thompson.
We know there will be a minimum of three changes from the side that started the final autumn Test against New Zealand, and in all likelihood at least half-a-dozen for the Wales match.
At inside centre, Ayoola Erinle is not deemed worthy of a place among the senior and Saxons squads, highlighting the bizaare decision to play him there in the first place. At blind-side flanker, Joe Worsley - crocked early on against the All Blacks - and Tom Croft, who replaced Worsley, are both sidelined. And at tight-head prop, Duncan Bell has only made the Saxons squad.
The injury concern over James Haskell, who is likely to move across from number eight to accommodate Easter if he recovers in time, raises the intriguing possibility of Courtney Lawes starting at six, where he has been playing for his club Northampton.
If Johnson wants to bolster his line-out options in the absence of the athletic Croft, it could be an inspired move, with Harlequins' Chris Robshaw the other blind-side option if Haskell joins Worsley and Croft on the sidelines.
David Wilson is set to resume at tight-head, with one of the young guns Matt Mullan or Dan Cole on the bench - while Riki Flutey - fitness permitting - should return at 12.
Allied to those, we can expect to either Delon Armitage or Ben Foden come in at full-back, Mark Cueto revert to the wing, and a possible change at 13 - Mathew Tait? Shontayne Hape? Or stick with Dan Hipkiss?
And then there are the half-backs. Paul Hodgson or Danny Care? Wilkinson or the fit-again Toby Flood, whose midfield partnership with Flutey was at the heart of much of England's attacking momentum towards the end of last year's Six Nations.
Amid such selectorial flux, to change the captain and main source of line-out possession would - on the face of it - have represented a sea-change in thinking for the arch-pragmatist Johnson.
Borthwick might not be everybody's cup of tea, and may not even be Johnson's long or medium-term choice as skipper.
But in the context of a must-win Championship opener against a fired-up Wales, it was the only sane one.