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O'Shea throws weight behind Robshaw

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea offered an impassioned defence of Chris Robshaw in reaction to a week of "insulting" speculation over his England future.

Robshaw responded to his critics with a strong performance topped by a try in Saturday's 26-23 Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps at Twickenham Stoop.

The 28-year-old's place as England's captain and first choice openside has been the subject of debate after he was outplayed by Saracens' Will Fraser in last weekend's 39-0 defeat.

However, an angry O'Shea insists Robshaw's form in recent years places him beyond reproach.

"Someone at the club asked if I wanted to see the press clippings and I told them where to put them," O'Shea said.

"The criticism was absolutely ridiculous and I spoke to Chris about it.

"If there's an agenda against a player who is as outstanding as he is, it's sad. Absolutely sad.

"He's been outstanding for England and outstanding for Quins. He is an absolutely magnificent rugby player and any team would be lesser without him.

"I find some of the stuff that's out there insulting.

"I'd prefer to have your head above the parapet, have expectations of you and have people talking about you because that means you're somebody.

"But sometimes it's very easy to make a cheap and easy headline out of something. It's cheap, uneducated and ill-informed.

"Last week we were beaten 39-0, but Robshaw was outstanding."

One of those targeting Robshaw's England's place is James Haskell, the Wasps captain who excelled in victory against Northampton on Sunday and he was superb again at Twickenham Stoop.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young refused to be drawn into analysing the Haskell v Robshaw duel, but had a kind word for Quins' back row.

"Haskell is easily our most effective performer in the tackle area," Young said.

"He tops our tackle count every week and he's taken to the captaincy like a duck to water.

"It's not for me to talk about another team's player, but it's very rare that Chris Robshaw doesn't play very well."

Eight days after their players apologised to supporters for their home collapse against Saracens, Quins drew on their reserves of character to dispatch another London rival.

"Mentally and physically that was the reaction we wanted. It would be robotic not to have tension and nervousness after last week," O'Shea said.

"It was far from perfect but I didn't expect perfection. This game was about our players fronting up and showing what it meant to them.

"We had rabid intensity at the start of the second half which was all-consuming. I'm very proud of the reaction we showed, it was brilliant.

"I took my daughter swimming on Saturday morning at 8am and this guy came up to me and said: 'this has been a tough season for you hasn't it?'.

"I looked at him and said: 'we're two games into it'. I tried to be as polite as we could.

"This team showed it likes a fight and we were spoiling for one after last week."

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