Robshaw relaxed over England role
Chris Robshaw returns to England’s openside flanker berth against Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday with a renewed understanding of the highs and lows of international rugby union.
The Harlequins back-row, who will co-captain the side with George Ford against the Pacific islanders after England head coach Eddie Jones benched regular skipper Dylan Hartley, has become a mainstay on the blindside while the Australian has won 21 of his 22 Tests as Red Rose boss.
Saturday’s match sees him back on the openside for the first time since England’s ill-fated 2015 World Cup campaign when the hosts, with Robshaw as their full-time captain, were knocked out in the group stage.
Jones cuttingly labelled Robshaw a “six-and-a-half at best” in a newspaper column before England’s early exit led the Rugby Football Union to sack then coach Stuart Lancaster and bring in the former Australia and Japan boss as his replacement.
Injuries have forced Jones into reshaping his back-row for England’s final Test of 2017, with Robshaw a member of a loose forward trio where Sam Simmonds is at No 8 and Maro Itoje on the blindside.
– ‘Winston Churchill speeches’ –
Having won Jones’s respect, Robshaw has drawn the sting from that biting comment regarding the Harlequins flanker’s abilities.
“As you get a bit older you get a bit more relaxed, you don’t take things to heart as much, and you have that experience,” Robshaw, 31, said at England’s training base in Bagshot, southwest of London.
“You have the pain, the good times, the bad times, and you can see when there’s a guy having a bit of a tough situation or there’s a guy about to get his first cap or even his 50th cap, and you’ve been through that roller coaster already.
“And you can speak to them. People often think about these Winston Churchill speeches, a lot of the time it’s just being there for people, showing people you care.”
Robshaw, now a veteran of 58 Test appearances, added: “At the moment with England we have a very good squad who want to do well, who want to succeed — and who care about each other.
“We all go through those tough times, whether it’s selection or media or not playing well, whatever it may be. It’s trying not to get too down in the bad times, trying not to get too high in the good times.”
– ‘Car crash’ –
England, for all Jones has made nine changes to the starting XV that beat Australia 30-6 at Twickenham last week, are huge odds-on favourites to beat a Samoa team who have lost all six of their previous Tests in 2017.
But fly-half Ford is braced for a typically bruising battle with the Pacific islanders in what will be England’s final international of the year.
“Touch wood I’ve never been in a car crash, but I can imagine that playing Samoa is as close to one as you can come,” he said.
“They get their energy from making big hits and winning collisions and they’re very good at it,” the Leicester No 10 added.
“I made my first start against Samoa one autumn and got done a couple of times. Our skills have got to be on the money because if not they’ll just come for you, flying off the line and wanting to hurt you.”