- Stuart Lancaster on why he has stuck with Robshaw as England captain
- Head Coach also discusses injuries and Burton camp objectives
Chris Robshaw is at the apex of the strong leadership group Stuart Lancaster has established in his England team and the Head Coach says his form, fitness and rapid growth in the role separate him from the other generals on the field.
Lancaster has appointed the 26-year-old Harlequins skipper to lead England through the QBE Internationals this autumn, when Fiji – and the only three teams placed higher in the IRB rankings – Australia, South Africa and New Zealand visit Twickenham on successive Saturdays.
Believing that Robshaw sets an example that other rugby players naturally follow, Lancaster says this stems from an introspective and unassuming attitude on and off the field.
“He is very humble and I think he leads by example,” said Lancaster. “He leads by doing and people follow him because of that. You don’t need to be a great orator or a great speaker to be a great leader and that’s his leadership style.
“He’s playing well and the first requirement of your captain is that he’s picked in your side and his form dictates that he’s going to be first choice. The experience that he’s growing through the captaincy of Harlequins has been a factor and he’s done a great job since he got the opportunity during the Six Nations.”
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By Lancaster’s own admission, his leadership group is depleted going into a big autumn, with central, experienced figures Ben Foden, Tom Croft and Dylan Hartley, the only other captain in his eight game reign, all absent.
Although unable to give a definitive answer with their type of knee injuries, Lancaster expects Courtney Lawes will be out for one to two weeks, with his Northampton Saints teammate Hartley a further two weeks.
But Lancaster is expecting other players to step into the void and for the remaining leaders to assume more responsibility, using the tour to South Africa as a working example.
He said: “We lost Tom Croft for the summer tour and other people stepped up into the hole he left, Tom Johnson did as a player and other people did too. Brad Barritt contributed more, Dylan rose and I expect others to do the same this time.
“Geoff Parling was a key man for us in the summer, his leadership was excellent and he provided the support that Chris needs.”
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England are into the third day of a four night stint at St George’s Park in Burton, with the principle aim to reconnect as a group before four successive Test weeks at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot.
For Lancaster, this fits into three key areas to ensure they are in prime position to approach Fiji on November 10: “Revisiting our culture and environment that we’ve tried to create as an England team, that was probably the first one.
“Second is get on the same page from a technical and tactical point of view and the third is to make sure we’ve got everyone fit, in form and available for selection for what will be some difficult decisions in the fullness of knowledge that we have the whole squad available.
“There’s been a lot of medical work and physiotherapy work going on to get people fit and also kick-on the fitness levels of the lads because we know this series is going to be hugely challenging.”