Harlequins’ captain Chris Robshaw has been named as England’s skipper for the forthcoming Six Nations opener against Scotland despite only having made one appearance for his nation’s team to date.
Robshaw’s lone cap came over two and a half years ago, but is tipped to play an integral role in the future of the England side following some impressive form for Harlequins so far this season.
Robshaw fought off competition from Dylan Hartley, Tom Croft and Tom Wood for the role, but when Wood picked up a toe injury the Quins man emerged as the favourite to take the role.
Whilst this is not a permanent appointment to the role it will provide Robshaw a chance to show his leadership credentials on the international stage and put his case forward for the role on a permanent basis. He will initially lead England in their first two games of the campaign, against Scotland and Italy before head coach, Lancaster makes a further decision to the role for the remainder of the tournament.
Robshaw has described his appointment as “a huge honour and a very proud day”. He has praised the large number of leaders within the England squad and is looking forward to `working alongside them to get the best out of this new look England side.
Lancaster is confident he has made the right decision, and punters seem to agree – the best Six Nations betting odds show that England remain favourites despite Robshaw’s lack of experience at the top level. Lancaster has been impressed by the way he has demonstrated with Harlequins and with the England Saxons how well he can “lead a team tactically and passionately.”
He also did not fail to agree with Robshaw on the importance of the “strong leadership group” within the England camp. The England squad is full of players who had the potential to be captains and it will no doubt be expected that they will all be there to support the new England captain in his new role.
A revitalised Charlie Hodgson has today returned to the England starting line up after an absence of nearly four years.
The former Sale man, now at Saracens, has had a rollercoaster international career, but thus far he will be remembered mainly for the mistakes and poor performances that have kept him in the shadow of Wilkinson, Goode and Flood over the past few years.
2008 saw his last games for England, with missed tackles, memorably on Ma’a Nonu, poor kicking and open criticism from then coach, Rob Andrew, seeming to sum up a disappointing international career for Hodgson who many thought would now not get another chance at the top.
But Sale fans have known for years, and Saracens fans are now seeing just how good Hodgson actually is. As far as attacking goes there are fewer better players in recent English history. He single has taken some of the best defences in the world apart with his quick distribution and clever footwork. Any doubters need only watch the 2006 Premiership Final where Hodgson in the space of one game showed everything that is good about his play.
And his attacking prowess has not gone unnoticed by Stuart Lancaster. The interim coach wants to make England exciting to watch again and he feels that a player such as Hodgson at fly half can create a mindset and provide the ball for the backs to play some beautiful running Rugby that has been missing from the English game in recent years.
Hodgson has admitted there were times when he thought he was “never going to get picked” but stressed that his emphasis has always remained on “working hard and never losing faith in my ability”. His move to Saracens in the summer summed up his ambitions.
He could easily have stayed at Sale, playing in a safe environment at a club that was languishing at the wrong end of the table, with fans that idolised Hodgson. But he decided to give himself one last chance at the big time, he signed for the Champions, he put himself in the position to get this chance and now, against Scotland on Saturday, he has one last chance to be England’s man.