x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Robshaw coming into his own as England captain

England’s revival on field and among supporters is credit to their previously maligned leader

Chris Robshaw passes the ball during an England training session held at Pennyhill Park on March 13, 2014, in Bagshot, England. David Rogers / Getty Images
Chris Robshaw passes the ball during an England training session held at Pennyhill Park on March 13, 2014, in Bagshot, England. David Rogers / Getty Images

It is not clear what was more surreal at Twickenham on Sunday. The ease with which England beat a Welsh side packed with Lions, or the fact that Chris Robshaw moved into third place on the list of Tests captained by an Englishman.

He only has Will Carling and Martin Johnson ahead of him. That seems bizarre, seeing as it only feels like he has just been given the honour.

Not to mention that for much of his time in office, Robshaw has seemed as though he would struggle to captain a rowing boat on a millpond.

Yet he has coaxed two fine performances from his side during this Six Nations championship, leaving England with an outside shot of claiming the title this weekend.

If results do swing their way, they will have done it the hard way, too, with three away games to the two tough ones they had against Wales and Ireland at home.

Forget the iffy calls he made against Australia and South Africa last year; Robshaw has clearly got the hang of it now.

Perhaps the greater achievement Robshaw’s side have managed has been getting their public to genuinely believe in them again.

Even from the vantage point of a TV set 7,000 kilometres away, it has been obvious that England have benefited from an unusually affectionate embrace from their home crowd in their past two Tests.

The side contains several players who have traded the tag of rugby’s public enemy No 1 in the recent past, but their credit rating at present is sky high.

That is mainly because of the uplifting performances, but it could also be the likeability of their captain.

Robshaw is all action, topping the carrying and tackling charts for the tournament so far for his team.

He clearly has the fire in the belly and, increasingly of late, ice on the mind, too.

“Rugby is just that conundrum,” said Lewis Moody, the famously feisty former England captain, who led from the same, all-action position Robshaw does.

“You have to have enough passion and fire in your belly, as well as determination and commitment to the cause that is second to none.

“However, you also have to couple that with the top two inches when it comes to thinking, having the coolness under pressure and the calmness to make those decisions.

“As captain, you can’t always see everything. Chris will have a good group around him who will help him through that.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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