26 Sep 2012

Is Chris Robshaw's England captaincy under threat?

Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw may be England's latest Golden boy following a 'Roy of the Rovers' like campaign for club and country in 2011/12, but his England mentor, Stuart Lancaster, is not afraid to upset the apple cart.

On Tuesday, the England head coach insisted that he would not be naming his England Captain until the squad were together for the Autumn internationals, prior to the team's first outing with Fiji on 10th November.

Lancaster's failure to endorse the incumbent captain sparked a few surprised murmurings around the press. Robshaw, it appears, is not the shoe-in many had presumed across the land. In fact, the door seems to be wide open for a renewed contest for the England captaincy.

Accordingly, this week Dumptackle Rugby Blog takes a look at the credentials of Robshaw and the main contenders to lead the Red Rose this autumn, should he be over-looked.

Chris Robshaw (incumbent)

The Quins skipper has been accomplished in his efforts thus far at the helm for England and has been the main figurehead of Lancaster's bold revolution.

Ever the quiet achiever, the current Aviva Premiership Player of the Year's main strengths lie in his huge work-rate and his impeccable standards.

While he many not be the loudest voice in the team, he consistently says the right things and is inarguably the standard bearer for the current crop of England tyros. As they say in New Zealand, he has accrued the 'Mana' for the job.

It should not be forgotten too that his humble attitude and conduct with the public got many a disgruntled fan back onside with the national team; a valuable asset following embarassing episodes from his predecessors at RWC 2011.

It was an important factor in creating a feel good atmosphere around the team and gave Lancaster some leeway following less than impressive first up performances from England in Scotland and Italy in their first couple of Six Nations outings this year.

Robshaw's main problem though may still be that while is a hugely skillful flanker, who is admired by both peers and fans for his link play and attitude, he isn't the archetypal fetcher at 7.

If that is what the current coaching group covet and Robshaw isn't regarded as the long term option in the position, then perhaps it is wise to consider another man to take the reigns. It would be a tough call to make though. Perhaps an unpopular one too.

Dylan Hartley

Announcing Hartley as England captain would polarise many fans.

While he is undoubtedly a powerful hooker who has a long career in international rugby ahead of himself, the New Zealand born Northampton Saint is still regarded by many as a bit of a hot-head, prone to making costly mistakes at inopportune moments....not the best of traits for a decision maker at test level.

Therefore, it's likely that handing him the reigns over say...Chris Robshaw, would cause a bit of a stink......as much of a stink as say the bubbling geysers and mud pools of his home town; Rotorua - nicknamed 'Sulphur City'.

His fiery character is obviously a positive for Lancaster though, so he should not be discounted as a contender. Hartley crucially is also maturing and with 3 years of captaincy at the Saints under his belt and three more years until RWC 2015, there is time to grow into the role at International level.

When Robshaw became injured during England's tour of South Africa in June, Hartley captained the side for the third and final test. His more visceral approach to the captaincy seemed to work a treat too, as England secured a 14-all draw in Port Elizabeth.

That ability to lift the troops after a long, tough season, with only pride left to play for should not be underestimated. It certainly left an imprint on the mind of his coach, Stuart Lancaster. The match was a dead rubber though, so one should remember that the Springboks perhaps weren't as mentally focused as the previous two tests.

His selection as captain would be a huge risk too, as there is always the possibility that it could eventually turn sour, such was the case with English cricket's South African import, Kevin Pietersen.

Would he command the same 'mana' as Robshaw in the dressing room? It would be a step into the unknown.

 Tom Wood

Tom Wood, 25, has been touted as a potential England captain for some time.

Following a fine debut season with the Northampton Saints in 2011, where he was awarded the crown of Aviva Premiership 'Player of the Season', Wood was called up to the Elite England squad, starting every game of their successful 6 Nations campaign that year.

He made an immediate impression on then Head Coach, Martin Johnson, who was struck by his no-nonsense, down to earth, unflustered persona. Apparantly, Wood reminded Johnson of himself!

It's not surprising when one considers that the back-rower jetted over to New Zealand to play semi-pro rugby for North Otago in his youth, rather than stagnating in age grade rugby at home; an experience very comparable to Martin Johnson's famous time with King Country in the North Island.

The backrower's chances have been cruelly thwarted by a run of niggling injuries since his initial breakthrough though. Regarded as the man to take over when Lewis Moody was injured, Wood again suffered the injury curse.

Perhaps now is the time for the Northampton Saint flanker though. His ability as a natural Seven could seal Lancaster's stamp of approval too. Instrumental prior to his injury, he could be about to take on some added responsibility.

Is it too early though?

What do you think of Lancaster's failure to endorse Robshaw's captaincy?

Would you like to see Hartley or Wood take over?


  1. Personally I want Robshaw to continue and think he probably will.

    Wood is a quality option as an alternative though. England's 2003 side had plenty of captains on the field (as do most WC winning sides).

  2. Pick the team then pick the captain, don't want someone on the team sheet because he is captain rather than the best player for that position

    1. Fair point.

      I personally think Robshaw will remain as captain (as I think he is the best 7 around England at the moment...even if he isn't a typical fetcher.

      It will be interesting to see if Lancaster does go down a different route though in a couple of the games, as it wasn't ruled out in his press conference.

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