Monday 19 August 2019

Redemption for Robshaw in captain's role

Chris Robshaw during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park. Photo: Getty Images
Chris Robshaw during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park. Photo: Getty Images

Gavin Mairs

Chris Robshaw has been doing quite well lately for someone who has been so thoroughly written off.

That isn't new, of course, as the former England skipper has defied expectations since being stripped of the England captaincy two years ago by the current head coach, Eddie Jones.

During the 2015 Rugby World Cup, one of the lowest points in English rugby history when it comes to the national team, Jones wrote in a newspaper column that Robshaw was not only "not a No 7", but that he was "not outstandingly good in any area".

Unsurprisingly, Jones removed Robshaw as captain upon taking the England job after that tournament and ousted him from the openside flanker role. Many players would have crumbled under that criticism, and their international careers faded away just as easily as England's World Cup hopes that year.

But two years down the line, Robshaw will lead England out as co-captain with George Ford against Samoa, and the number on his back will be a seven. If that wasn't enough to build this redemption story, the Harlequins flanker has been one of England's most consistent performers over the last 22 months.

For a man who goes about his business very quietly, but to the highest standard, it'll come as no surprise that he is taking his captaincy return all in his stride, and while he admits there is some self-satisfaction there he would not for a second allow that feeling to get in the way of the job he has to do at Twickenham today.

"There is that, but as a player you know that the people you have to impress… no disrespect to you guys, but it's not you guys. It's Eddie, the coaches and your team-mates," Robshaw said. "They are the ones you have to impress and show your worth to the team. That doesn't just happen on a Saturday; that happens in every training session, every day.

"Of course I am excited and looking forward to the weekend. I'm just enjoying my rugby. Whether that comes in a co-captain capacity this weekend or just playing and doing my best for the team, as a player I'm not going to change. I'm going to perform the best I can whether I have half an armband on or not."

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Robshaw and Ford lead their country - for the second time this year after the summer non-cap match against the Barbarians - due to Dylan Hartley's absence from the starting XV. Of course, no one is suggesting that Robshaw has returned to the captaincy outright, with Hartley already confirmed by Jones as the skipper when the Six Nations comes around providing he maintains form and discipline over the next two months..

But it's worth noting that when Jones appointed Hartley, he also selected three vice-captains in Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Mike Brown. Farrell and Vunipola won't feature today, but Brown is in the side and it is testament to Robshaw's resilience - and Ford's emergence as a leader himself - that they have been given the duty to captain the side.

"It's probably one of those things where you don't think too much of it," adds Robshaw. "When Dylan comes on, he'll take over and we'll support him. "You are always extremely proud to play for your country, whether it's a co-captaincy capacity, captaincy or just playing, it's always such an honour, especially at Twickenham, 82,000 people, it's incredible."(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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