England may be determined not to look past the upcoming Italy match, but after their 6 Nations victory against Wales Stuart Lancaster has already decided to anoint Chris Robshow captain for this year’s World Cup. Assuming no accidents get in the way, Robshaw will be leading England into the autumn tournament after Lancaster’s decision that the Harlequins flanker is the right player for the high-profile positions.
Robshaw has been England’s captain during the whole of Lancaster’s tenure but so far he has only been reappointed to the position on a tournament to tournament basis. Nevertheless the coaches were hugely impressed at his input during the Cardiff match, not just on the field but also prior to the game. Just before it started, he refused pressure to lead his team out from the tunnel and onto the pitch whilst Wales had still not left their dressing room.
While a lot may change in form and fitness terms between now and autumn, Lancaster has already said he believes Robshaw is an automatic pick — no matter how severe the competition for places in the team’s back-row. It would require a “big change of heart” for the team to move away from Robshaw, Lancaster has said. His playing has been “excellent” and he feels the team must be sure “we continue to back him.” This they certainly will do in the Six Nations and with any luck he will be available and fit for the beginning of World Cup camp this June. Rugby World cup tickets are already on sale.
Robshaw’s playing against the Welsh was again influential, where he put in 26 tackles and played a key role in England’s massively effective performance in the second half. Said Lancaster, not only is Robshaw “secure in his position” on the team “but he’s earned it.” He pulled off a fantastic performance against Wales with the turnovers and tackles that he made as well as his contribution in the game.
Lancaster noted that in making decisions they look at players’ involvement in the game as a whole, “not just in the rucks” but also in their work off the ball, and Robshaw is “continually at the top of that” also. Therefore Robshaw has earned all the players’ respect and so he’s doing an effective job of leading them.
While England do have a steadily widening circle of leaders to choose from, Lancaster’s feelings on Robshaw are clear. He has matured into a stronger and decisive captain than he was during the Test years, and the tunnel moment was just one example of this. The coaches feel the spisode set the tone as a whole. “We have grown” as a group, Lancaster added. The incident was less so much about the tunnel per se and “more about playing hard” on the pitch. The line is a fine one between showing what a team is about and arrogant, but Lancaster believes England do not come across as the latter.
England’s luck has also apparently started changing for the better, and there are not any fresh injury concerns leading up to the Italy match at Twickenham. Though it would seem all but certain Lancaster is planning to go with an unchanged lineup, Brad Barritt, Geoff Parling, and Kyle Eastmond all are due to return to work inside the following 24 hours. At the same time it’s unlikely Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood are likely to be seeing playing any Rugby before the match between England and Ireland at the beginning of March, nor is it very likely that Manu Tuilagi will appear in this championship.