Chris Robshaw has been reappointed England captain for the 2014 RBS Six Nations as he edges closer to being given the post for next year’s World Cup.
The Harlequins openside was the overwhelming favourite to lead England in their quest to seize a first Championship crown since 2011, which opens against France in Paris on 1 February.
Robshaw has been at the helm for all but three of head coach Stuart Lancaster’s 22 Tests in charge and gave his most assured performances, as skipper and player, in last autumn’s QBE Internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. “Stuart rang me on Thursday and, as with every time he has asked me, it’s a great privilege,” Robshaw said. “To lead your country is a massive honour, but I’m fortunate to have a group of players and leaders who support me in that.
“We want to kick on from the autumn internationals and we can’t wait for the challenge ahead, starting with a tough away match against France.”
Lancaster prefers to delay unveiling his captain until as late as possible, mindful of the potential for injury and to breed competition. His decision to install Robshaw over two weeks before the six Nations starts is evidence of the 27-year-old’s growing authority in the position.
Having seen off Tom Wood for the captaincy last November and crushed competition from Matt Kvesic for the No 7 jersey, doubts over Robshaw’s leadership and place in the team vanished during an impressive autumn.
England are unlikely to name their skipper for the 2015 World Cup on home soil until well into next year, but Robshaw’s grip on the position is tightening with every match. He consistently leads the tackle count and makes a large number of carries, while the Red Rose management are also pleased with his improved speed over the ground and decision-making at the breakdown, which were viewed as shortcomings.
“Chris is in the team on merit as a player first and foremost, but has also shown himself to be an outstanding leader for Harlequins and England,” Lancaster said.”
On the trio of occasions that Robshaw was absent during Lancaster’s reign, he missed the third Test against South Africa in June 2012 through injury and was rested for the two Tests in Argentina last autumn.
Having made his debut against Argentina in 2009, Robshaw had to wait three years for his next cap – he has 20 in total – and has been skipper on every occasion since.
He is among a 35-man squad that will assemble at England’s Surrey training base next Monday ahead of the Six Nations campaign. The squad includes a number of exciting young players, headlined by Bath backs George Ford and Anthony Watson, Northampton centre Luther Burrell, Exeter wing Jack Nowell and Sale Sharks prop Henry Thomas.
After facing France, England then travel to meet Scotland seven days later, followed by Twickenham appointments with Ireland and Wales before ending the campaign away to Italy on 15 March.
Meanwhile, Bath’s Fiji-born wing Semesa Rokoduguni is a surprise inclusion in a 25-man England Saxons training squad for next week’s clash against the Irish Wolfhounds at Gloucester. Rokoduguni, 26, a soldier in the British Army with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, qualifies for England on residency grounds.