Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Robshaw growing into a Lions leader

Chris Robshaw has been in great form during the RBS 6 Nations
Chris Robshaw has been in great form during the RBS 6 Nations

Each completed round of the RBS 6 Nations nudges Chris Robshaw closer to the Lions captaincy, yet only a year ago he feared how his England team-mates would respond to his leadership.

With a solitary cap in the bank, Robshaw was named skipper before last season's championship and has retained the post since. Man of the match awards against Ireland and France have propelled a player who as recently as January was considered an unlikely Test starter for the Lions into the outstanding candidate to lead the summer tour to Australia.

"When I was first appointed it was one of those situations where you're captaining a team containing guys who are 10 years older than you who have played 30 times for their country and gone on X amount of tours. You're thinking: 'Are they actually going to listen to me?'" he said.

"You always look back to the guys you've been under and try to take bits of their style but, potentially, you always try and do too much. When I first became captain at Harlequins I tried to overdo things and tried to do everyone's job and make every decision. Nick Easter spoke to me at the time and said: 'Don't worry, we're here to help'.

"(Former England cricket captain) Andrew Strauss came in and spoke to us as a squad of players when we were in Leeds and said a similar thing, that when he first got into the role he tried to overdo it. It's about delegating and sharing the workload. We've got this leadership group and key people who do it well for their clubs."

Robshaw's impressive record of nine wins in 14 games as captain - a sequence that includes a 38-21 triumph over New Zealand - has justified his promotion under coach Stuart Lancaster.

But there have been challenging moments, with his decision-making against Australia and South Africa last year the subject of intense scrutiny and even ridicule.

"There's been good times, there's been tough times, there's been a lot of learning. The more you do something the more experience you get," he said.

"The autumn was my first time in that kind of dark, negative place. As an international captain you see it in other sports and you see managers under pressure and you don't really appreciate what it's like until you experience it yourself.

"It makes you a stronger person when you come out the other side. The players, in particular, were brilliant during the whole of that stage. A week is a long time in sport, never mind a couple of months."

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