Robshaw ready for unchartered territory
January 31, 2012
Chris Robshaw will captain England against Scotland © PA Photos
England captain Chris Robshaw has admitted he has never set foot in the stadium where he is set to experience one of his finest hours in his rugby careeer.
Robshaw was officially unveiled on Monday as England's skipper for their opening two Six Nations matches, despite having earned just a single cap - more than two-and-a-half years ago - and has conceded that he has never played in Murrayfield. After forcing his way back into the squad in the wake of last year's World Cup debacle, the 25-year-old Harlequins captain now finds himself thrown right in at the deep end, charged with bringing the Calcutta Cup back from Edinburgh in Saturday's championship opener.
"At the moment, I'm quite relaxed about the whole process," he said. "But I'm sure come Thursday, Friday, I'll probably get a bit more nervous.
"It's one of those places I've never actually been to. As a rugby player, you want to play on the big stage. It is a daunting place and it is going to be very tough - but it's one everybody's looking forward to."
Robshaw was not interim head coach Stuart Lancaster's first choice as skipper but saw off competition from Dylan Hartley and Tom Croft after Tom Wood picked up a toe injury. Fellow flanker Wood could yet reclaim the honour, with Robshaw only guaranteed the job against Scotland and Italy, and he admitted being handed the armband had capped a whirlwind month.
"It was a bit of a surreal moment," he said. "When Stuart told me yesterday, he told me not to tell anyone for half an hour. I had to go to my room and was so happy and smiling. "It has taken me a couple of years just to break into it (the squad). It's such a privilege, not only to play for your country but to captain it.
"I've got a great bunch of lads around me as well and the whole squad as well, but especially the leaders, whether that's Dylan Hartley up front, Ben Foden at the back. It won't be a dictatorship by any means. A lot of these guys have played a lot more than me and have been to these stadiums, so they've got this experience which they can pass on not only to myself but the other guys."
Only four men have captained England with fewer caps than Robshaw, who will doubtless be targeted by a Scotland side desperate to avenge their World Cup defeat to England.
"That's something I can't control," he said. "Of course, there'll be external factors, from them and the crowd and the weather conditions. But we can just focus on what we can and hopefully getting our game onto the pitch."
Robshaw is no rookie when it comes to the art of captaincy and has learnt plenty from his 18 months with the armband at Quins.
"When I first got it, I was trying to do too much," he said. "I remember actually in our first training session, I was getting a bit stressed and trying to run too many things.
"Even in my first couple of games, I was just trying to do too much and trying to worry about too many different factors. You forget what got you there in the first place - playing well, leading by example.
"Once I got back to that, everything fitted."
Robshaw was Lancaster's captain for England Saxons last season and the interim head coach insisted the flanker's elevation was no more a gamble than his own.
"I guess it's a bit of a risk to put an interim head coach in and let him get on with it," he said. "My philosophy is that if you believe the person has got the leadership ability and the confidence to do the role well then I think that he should be given the opportunity.
"It's a similar situation to myself, to be perfectly honest and I've got confidence in myself and I've always got confidence in Chris as well."
Robshaw also bears a responsibility for repairing the reputation of the England team off the field. Despite that being tarnished again by the arrest of Delon Armitage at the weekend, Robshaw said: "I'm pretty sure we're going in the right direction and English rugby will be in the right frame of mind."
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