England’s captain has had some season. Aviva Premiership Player of the Year, awarded the England captaincy and now a Premiership title winner for the first time. For a guy who failed to make the Rugby World Cup squad 9 months ago, it’s some turnaround, but even back then the signs were there that Robshaw could be on the brink of something special. Hailed as one of the best performing players in all the pre-tournament fitness tests and drills, the feeling was always that if his time was not now, it would be soon.
Now Robshaw is captaining England to South Africa on what will be his first visit to the country. You can forgive him for the occasional moment of dis-belief at how far he has come.
“I was pinching myself when we almost threw it away at the end against Leicester! To finish the season that way is what we aspired for and it was a special day for myself and everyone involved. A lot of people had been writing us off but it was down to our performance.”
“If someone had told me where I’d be now back in September, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s been a surreal and crazy year. Taking on the England captaincy has meant more abuse from the boys at Quins for being more recognisable! But everyone’s been brilliant from the guy in the street to everyone at the club.”
At the end of a long groundbreaking season, Robshaw’s legs should be weary but the challenge of touring South Africa has more than fed his appetite. “It’s about having the balance with down time and switching off when it matters. These are the games that you want to play in. It won’t be easy, but we’re looking forward to it. My body feels fresh – the medics have been great and I’ve been rested in the odd game throughout the season and that’s what you need.”
Robshaw is naturally indebted to Stuart Lancaster for not just providing him the captaincy, but also the proudest moment of his career leading England out to the roar from the Twickenham faithful. “He said he was going to pick the players who were playing well in the Premiership and he has done. He’s assembled a great coaching team with Mike coming in as well now and everyone has bought into the systems. The structures in place and the visions he’s got are right for the team.”
Something about Robshaw’s performance in the Aviva Premiership Final was both surprising, but also inspired. Operating at first receiver, there was a moment where with Quins going backwards, Robshaw palmed off two tacklers and then spun away from another to turn an apparent loss into an impressive gain. It was a moment more commonly produced by the likes of David Pocock or Richie McCaw than a Rugby World Cup squad reject. More important, it was a sign that Robshaw is slowly becoming as his team-mate Danny Care described – “world-class”.
“I’m loving my rugby, but I don’t know if it’s my best. If you judge it by silverware then it’s going well, but that’s a credit to the players I’m playing with.” Robshaw’s modesty is admirable, but Harlequins would not Aviva Premiership champions without him.
by Ben Coles