Monday 23 April 2018

Shaw sees similarities in captains

Simon Shaw believes the game will be won up-front (Pinnacle/PA)
Simon Shaw believes the game will be won up-front (Pinnacle/PA)

Former England lock Simon Shaw detects similarities in the leadership of Chris Robshaw and Paul O'Connell as the rival captains prepare to collide in Dublin on Sunday.

The Aviva Stadium will host the title showdown between the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the RBS 6 Nations, with bookmakers viewing Ireland as marginal favourites.

Even at 35, O'Connell remains the reigning champions' heartbeat and Shaw is an admirer having played against the Irish talisman and under him over two brutal Tests for the 2009 Lions.

But Shaw insists Robshaw is building a strong reputation of his own with England under Stuart Lancaster cast in his image.

"Paul's work-rate is absolutely phenomenal," said Shaw on behalf of QBE, the Business Insurance Specialist.

"Paul might not make massive yardage or make the biggest hits, but he's always there screaming at the scrum-half for ball and that enthusiasm from the captain brings the team through.

"Robshaw is similar in that sense for England. He might not say a massive amount nor be a showy player, but he's one of those players for whom his team-mates would run through a brick wall.

"Robshaw had an edgy start as captain three years ago. Early on there were doubts over him not just as a leader, but also over whether he merited the number seven shirt. But he's proved himself to everyone.

"In virtually every game he's top of the stats. He's showing the steely determination and work ethic that runs through the side as a whole and it's because of him that those strengths have become a characteristic of this England team.

"Captaincy is not necessarily what you say or rousing speeches, it's what you do on the pitch and the respect you have from your peers.

"Paul O'Connell combines the two very well because he is a fine speaker but also a leader of men in terms of what he does on the pitch. Robshaw is the type of captain who leads the way."

Shaw, who won 71 England caps from 1996 to 2011 and played in the Grand Slam-denying 24-8 rout in Dublin four years ago, believes the key to success on Sunday will be how successfully the early Irish onslaught is weathered.

"The game will be won up-front. Ireland will want to impose themselves in the first 20-30 minutes and get points on the board as quickly as possible," Shaw said.

"It's about staying cool. When we went to Dublin in 2011 far too many people tried to do something different, trying to have an affect on the game on their own.

"Ben Youngs had a rough day because he let Ireland get under his skin. He was rattled by the whole occasion.

"When the pressure comes on in that first quarter, you must stay cool, but England have already shown that composure against Wales in this competition.

"England have shown real steel in this tournament, especially in the pack, but they have also shown what they're capable of out wide. The title winners will come out of these two teams."

* Simon Shaw was speaking on behalf of QBE, the Business Insurance Specialist, official insurance partner of England Rugby

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