Saturday 20 January 2018

Robshaw aiming to exorcise his demons as England eye Twickenham return

England's Chris Robshaw. Photo: PA
England's Chris Robshaw. Photo: PA
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Eddie Jones' first game in charge at Twickenham, staying on course for a Grand Slam, avenging last year's defeat to Ireland and burying ghosts of the past - there will be no shortage of English motivation come Saturday evening.

For the last three years England have lost out on the Six Nations title on points difference, the last two to Ireland but this time around Joe Schmidt's side arrive with a slew of injuries.

For Chris Robshaw in particular, Saturday's return to Twickenham is likely to feel like a chance of redemption, but it will take some time yet for his past misgivings to be forgotten.

The flanker has been stripped of the captaincy after England became the first World Cup host to crash out at the pool stage and his decision not to go for the posts in the dying stages of their opening game against Wales to salvage a draw is a blot that will forever lie next to his name.

There is, however, a renewed sense of belief under Jones and just like his coach, Robshaw is expecting Ireland to test England in the air again.

"They've a lot of experience and last year, when we went to them, I don't know if they were much smarter but they were probably more intense than we were. We were slightly off the pace, I feel," Robshaw (right) said.

"Two years before we had won a very tight game, but they were very smart in that game and they always have a couple of tricks up their sleeve. They attack the breakdown with an intensity that the Irish do - whether that is holding players up or working on the floor.

"They run good lines, they are good under the high balls and they've got a huge amount of threats right across the pitch. We need to be aware of that.

"You've got to play your game to find weaknesses in the opposition. That's what smart teams do.

"It's about playing the way you want to play, but also being aware and not playing to the other team's strengths."

England are bidding to go one better after coming up short for the last three years and Robshaw insists that the hurt will inspire the players this weekend.

"It's been hugely frustrating, hasn't it - to miss the last three years on points-difference," the Harlequins player said.

"It is tough, especially when you fine gentlemen of the media are taking pictures of us watching it and being put in papers; it is tough to take and you remember these things.

"You go through it as a team and there are a lot of guys here who have gone through those emotions.

"Of course we want to go on and win it, but we'll deal with that when we get to it. We've done a pretty good job in the first two rounds and we've had good preparation going into this next game.

"The World Cup was pretty tough and went against us, but I don't think we've had a succession of negative games. We've generally played pretty well, then had a dip then played well again.

"We'll have a very tough Ireland side coming there. They haven't got off to the start they would have wanted, but look at their experience and their key individuals.

"Ireland will have a bit of frustration in them, I'm sure, and they're always an extremely passionate side. They are a very dangerous side and a very smart side. They're one of the smarter sides you'll play against."

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