By Andrew Baldock
ENGLAND lock Steve Borthwick has a degree in economics and politics from Bath University - so his reputation as a workaholic rugby scholar should be of little surprise.
Borthwick’s microscopic attention to detail when he plays for club or country is assuming folklore status.
When the 26-year-old Cumbrian runs out against Italy in Rome tomorrow, he could probably tell you everything there is to know about his anticipated opposite numbers Santiago Dellape and Marco Bortolami.
Borthwick, who will win a 24th cap at Stadio Flaminio, believes it is a fairly straightforward requirement - simply doing his job.
"Anything I do is about the team doing well," said the Bath captain. "My personal approach is that if you are given a job to do, then you do it to the very best of your ability. All I do is make sure I operate to the very best of my ability to help the team get their result. If it is the lineout, then I have to make sure I do the preparation necessary for a good performance. That, I feel, is just doing your job properly."
Borthwick has started all four of England’s Tests this season, yet international sport’s sometimes fickle nature is not lost on him.
Less than two months before he featured against Australia at Twickenham, Borthwick failed to make England boss Andy Robinson’s first 30-man squad of the campaign.
"You have blows in your career, and when I wasn’t picked in the squad of 30 before the autumn internationals, that hurt," he added.
"You put a lot of work in, and playing for England is something every English player is desperate to do. When you take those blows, you realise every chance you get is a precious one, and you are very conscious that you need to perform at your very best to make sure you stay in the team."
The form guide suggests an England rollover in Rome, although Borthwick supports England’s public theory that Italy will not roll over easily on a ground where they have claimed all of their three previous Six Nations scalps - Scotland (twice) and Wales.
"I’ve never started a senior game against Italy, so it is a new challenge for me.
"They seem to be playing really well, very enthusiastic and really focussed on doing well," he added.
The Azzurri gave Ireland a run for their money last week and although coach Pierre Berbizier accepts that tomorrow’s opponents promise to present an even bigger challenge, he has asked for more of the same at the Stadio Flaminio.
"To be realistic, we are facing a squad at a superior level and if they play to the best of their capabilities, it will be very difficult for us," said the former France coach.
"Our task remains, like against Ireland, to express all our potential and be ready to exploit every mistake on their part.
"Against the Irish we succeeded in stopping the opposing attacks. We should do the same against England, but we cannot limit ourselves to defending.
"If we do that then it could be a dangerous mistake. Sooner or later they would find the right moment to punish us.
"We should challenge them in every situation of the game. We are going to face the reigning world champions with the same spirit that we prepared for the Ireland match with."
Berbizier has named an unchanged starting line-up for the game.
ITALY (v England): C Stoica; P Canavosio, G Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, L Nitoglia; R Pez, P Griffen; S Perugini, F Ongaro, C Nieto, S Dellape, Bortolami, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, S Parisse.
Replacements: C Festuccia, A Lo Cicero, M Castrogiovanni, C Del Fava, S Orlando, S Picone, R Wakarua.