Robshaw confirmed as England captain
January 30, 2012
Harlequins' Chris Robshaw is set to lead England into their Six Nations opener against Scotland © Getty Images
Chris Robshaw has been confirmed as England captain for the defending champions' opening Six Nations clashes against Scotland and Italy.
The 25-year-old back-row will spearhead a new era for England despite having only been capped once by his country back in 2009. However, the in-form Quins skipper has done enough to impress interim head coach Stuart Lancaster with Robshaw set to become the most inexperienced England captain since Nigel Melville skippered the side on his international debut in 1984.
"It's a huge honour and a very proud day - hopefully one that will live in my memory for a long time to come. Thanks to everyone who has helped me, especially Quins," said Robshaw.
"There are lots of other leaders in the group and they have been great since we met up. It's not about myself because there are six or seven guys around me who all have a massive role to play, whether that's bossing scrums, line-outs, attack, defence...Stuart [Lancaster], Graham [Rowntree] and Andy [Farrell] have given us the game plan and it's up to us to get it across to the other players to drive the standards and the squad forward in the right way."
Lancaster heaped praise on his skipper but stressed the fact his new captain has a formidable 'leadership group' to support him with the likes of flanker Tom Croft and hooker Dylan Hartley among those more experienced players vying for selection this weekend against the Scots.
"We have a strong leadership group and I have been very impressed with the way they have all stepped up so far. Chris is a key member of that group and has shown with Harlequins and when I have worked with him in the Saxons that he can lead a team tactically and passionately.
"I am delighted that he has got this chance at the highest level and I know it will be a very proud moment for him, his club, family and friends when he leads England out at Murrayfield on Saturday."
Tom Wood was widely tipped to be named captain but an injury to the Northampton flanker has forced a re-think by Lancaster who was hoping that candidates would "emerge" from their recent training camp in Leeds. Leicester fly-half Toby Flood was another captaincy option sidelined through injury leaving Northampton captain Hartley as the other leading contender to succeed England's World Cup skipper Lewis Moody who has since retired from international rugby.
But Lancaster, who also made Robshaw captain while England Saxons boss last season, has no fears about installing a novice as his skipper. "Not at all," he said. "In terms of the profile of our group as a whole, people would say we lack experience internationally.
"But the counter-argument is we've got a lot of lads who've got an awful lot of experience playing in the Premiership and Europe. Chris has done that and captained his side really well in a lot of big games."
He added: "He's been a fantastic captain for Harlequins this season and obviously captained the Saxons last year during the Six Nations, so I trust him and I will know he will do a fantastic job."
Lancaster was coy on whether Wood was his first choice, with the Northampton star having performed the captaincy duties at last week's Six Nations launch. "He hasn't trained so we didn't get a chance to get that point," Lancaster said. "Tom's priority is to get fit again and then he's got to get into the team. Back row is a competitive position."
And Robshaw was far from a shoo-in either. Lancaster added: "It was a very difficult decision. But we slept on it over the weekend and we felt Chris was the right man. He's got great support in Dylan Hartley, Tom Croft, Ben Youngs, Ben Foden etc.
"Dylan was really, really pleased for Chris and will be a great lieutenant to him - he's captained Northampton - as will Tom Croft, who has been very impressive during the week. Chris's experience, what he has done for Harlequins this year and my knowledge of him, and how he has fitted into the group - he's a natural leader - tipped it in his favour."
Commenting on the announcement, Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea said, "We're delighted for Chris, his appointment is a tribute to him, the squad and the Club. To be given the honour of captaining your country is among the great experiences in sport.
"Chris has come right the way through the Harlequins' Academy and is a credit to all that have nurtured his career. He is an inspirational player who brings his individual style to the way he leads and plays. Provided he is given the right support, he will do well in what is an incredibly challenging role. I am sure he will do a great job."
Lancaster will cut his squad down from 32 on Tuesday night, with the exact starting line-up and bench to be announced on Thursday.
Chris Robshaw Factfile:
1986: Born June 4 in Surrey.
1993: Starts playing rugby for Warlingham RFC aged seven.
2004: Plays for England schools under-18s.
2006: Makes Harlequins debut and scores two tries against Pertemps Bees. Is rewarded with England Under-21 call-up for Six Nations and World Championships.
2007: Makes his Premiership debut for Quins.
2008: Wins the Churchill Cup with the England Saxons.
2009: Named as the Premiership player of the year. Then makes his England debut against the Barbarians in May, before winning his first cap against Argentina.
2010: Drafted into the England squad for the Six Nations before being named as Harlequins captain. Tours Australia with England and captains them against the Australian Barbarians and the New Zealand Maori.
2011: Captains the England Saxons against Italy A and Ireland A. Signs a contract with Harlequins until 2014. Named in England squad for World Cup but fails to make the final cut.
2012: Named as England captain for the Six Nations opener with Scotland.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter