English Premiership 2009/10

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Guinness Premiership
No fracture for Borthwick
September 28, 2009

England skipper Steve Borthwick was taken to a specialist eye hospital after clashing with Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam in Saracens' 19-16 Guinness Premiership win on Saturday.

Borthwick received five stitches and club medics transported him to London's Moorfields Hospital for closer examination of his eye-ball and eye-socket. The England lock underwent further tests on Monday when it was confirmed that there was no fracture.

A club statement confirmed that he will be out of action for 2-4 weeks, missing Saracens' opening European Challenge Cup fixture.

Saracens have their own video footage of the incident and head coach Mark McCall suspects Azam may have deliberately kicked out at Borthwick in a 13th-minute ruck.

"We have had a quick look at it. We are concerned at the way it occurred and it would appear it may have been a deliberate act of foul play," said McCall. "Steve is at hospital to see if there is any damage to his eye-socket.

"It is more than a cut. His eye is completely closed over and at this stage we don't know how badly damaged it is. The video footage we have seen so far would appear to be reasonably clear. It is something nobody wants to see. Steve was on the ground and pretty much defenceless in the position he was in."

Azam denied that there was anything deliberate on his part, insisting that any contact was not intended and that he was unaware of it at the time.

"I didn't know I did it. Someone twisted my ankle but I didn't know I touched him," he said. "Of course (it was accidental)."

Following the game, Saracens CEO Edward Griffiths lashed out at sections of the crowd who booed the side's conservative play. Saracens' new brand of pressure rugby under Brendan Venter has been winning games, but not new friends as 7,777 watched the game at Vicarage Road despite their recent Wembley success against Northampton.

"We are not dibbling and dabbling this season. This squad of players, coaches, medical and support staff has come from all corners of the globe and assembled in north London with the clear aim of winning the Premiership, nothing more and nothing less. They have made an extraordinary start," he said.

"Against this background, it was astonishing to hear a vocal minority of the Vicarage Road crowd booing the team during the second half against Gloucester. At a time when they were trailing by two points, at a time when they were straining every muscle to seize the victory, the players surely deserved unequivocal support.

"Of course, we can all talk about game plans and we can debate tactics. Make no mistake, everybody is entitled to their opinion. However, let's be clear - we want to turn the tide and build a winning culture at Saracens.

"This is a mighty challenge, but it is a challenge we can certainly meet if, as a united club, as players, coaches, staff and supporters, we can stand together and back each other, in good times and in tough times, together."

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