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Players never lost respect for Robshaw over World Cup failure, claims Horwill

Published 24/02/2016

Former Australia captain James Horwill has backed Chris Robshaw, pictured, to continue to thrive with England despite his World Cup heartache
Former Australia captain James Horwill has backed Chris Robshaw, pictured, to continue to thrive with England despite his World Cup heartache

World Cup "fall guy" Chris Robshaw has already emerged from England's disastrous autumn as a stronger Test match competitor, according to Harlequins team-mate James Horwill.

Robshaw might have lost the England captaincy but has retained his back-row berth under new boss Eddie Jones, and Horwill hailed the 29-year-old's tenacity in seizing a new lease of international life.

Former Australia lock Horwill knows all about sustaining a Test career after relinquishing the captaincy, representing the Wallabies for two further years once his leadership stint had come to an end in 2013.

The 30-year-old has watched Robshaw's rebranding as a blindside flanker at first-hand at Harlequins, and insists that his Twickenham Stoop colleague has the quality and mettle to continue to thrive for England.

"I think Chris Robshaw became the fall guy for England," Horwill told Press Association Sport, of the fallout after England became the first World Cup hosts not to reach the quarter-finals.

"Rightly or wrongly that's what the captain has to handle.

"You have to say, 'It's on me' if you lose.

"That's what Chris has done and you do that on behalf of the team.

"Speaking to other guys they certainly haven't see things that way and in the end that's the most important thing.

"The guys in the changing room with you, they are the people you want to impress and to have the high opinion of you.

"At the end of the day it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.

"And that's probably going to be a little bit warped as well, because people outside, they don't know all the ins and outs."

England have eased to victories in Scotland and Italy, but even new boss Jones has admitted the real challenges lie ahead, starting with hosting Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Robshaw inched away from the World Cup heartache by switching from openside to blindside flanker at Quins and has been afforded the opportunity to reprise that new role with England.

Former Queensland Reds lock Horwill hailed Robshaw as a far more influential operator than many neutral observers have credited over the years.

The 61-cap second row did, however, accept that his Quins team-mate will undoubtedly have learned quick and harsh lessons from England's chastening World Cup.

"Chris works very hard, tackles well, carries a lot and goes forward, and does the hard things that others don't want to," said Horwill.

"He gets stuck in when some wouldn't.

"He does the work-rate and things you need from a back-rower.

"It's about having your balance in your back-row and he's been fantastic for us.

"I think you've got to learn as you go, through your career. I'm still learning now and I know Chris will be too.

"You just learn from all the different situations that come your way, as you go through your career.

"You never realise it at the time, but sometimes afterwards you can look back at certain points and then see how you have grown or progressed.

"I think all you can do is try to make sure you continue to be better-prepared all the time as you go along.

"He definitely will have learned from the World Cup and he will be better for it.

"All Chris has to worry about now is what he does. As captain you spend a lot of time thinking about everyone else, and if you're not careful you can put yourself second.

"Now Chris can just worry about himself, and playing as well as he can for England. And that could make a difference.

"He's been fantastic for us, he's a huge asset and has been playing some fantastic rugby."

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