- Webber keen to stake long-term England claim
- Bath Rugby hooker will captain country for the first time
Not many players get to kick-start their return to international rugby by captaining their country – Rob Webber is one of the lucky few.
The Bath Rugby hooker, who played off the bench in three of England's 2012 RBS 6 Nations matches before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, will lead England for the first time at Twickenham this Sunday and is ready to lay down a marker against a Barbarians side heavy on caps and experience.
The 26-year-old is determined to repay the faith head coach Stuart Lancaster has shown in his leadership abilities by getting their summer fixtures off to a winning start.
“I’m absolutely delighted, humbled by it [the captaincy]. It's a great privilege to just be involved playing in the first place and when Stuart gave me the nod he wanted me to do the job I was made up.
“That determination’s always there, whenever you play in a game, I think you put your reputation on the line as a team and as an individual. I guess I’ve got that determination to prove that I can still play at this level after my injury and give the best account of myself that I can.”
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Webber endured a long absence from the game after tearing his rotator cuff in last year's Six Nations victory over France before finally returning to the field for Bath earlier this season, and Sunday's game provides the perfect opportunity to end a painful period in his career.
“It was incredibly frustrating, disappointing [to be sidelined], you think you’ve finally got in the mix and then it’s all taken away but I guess that’s sport at this level. There are injuries, and it’s how you deal with it. It was a very frustrating 11 months out with my shoulder, I moved clubs in that time as well and that made it doubly frustrating that I couldn’t contribute to my new club in the way that I wanted as soon as I got down there. I owe Bath a lot in that sense as well, they stuck with me. I’m just delighted to be back fit and back involved and really can’t wait to get back on the pitch.”
Lancaster has named a youthful side for Sunday's encounter, with nine of the starting XV aged 24 or under and Webber is one of many looking to force his way to the fore of Lancaster's long-term planning.
“It’s a massive opportunity for every player. Guys are away on Lions [duty], guys rested, other guys have come in and they’re all vying for that England squad place. That’s what Stuart spoke about is building that strength in depth and getting experience, two, three, four players deep in every position so that when it comes to a Test match he’s got more to pick from. One of our goals this trip is to develop this side and the players going forward for England.
Photo: Getty Images
“We’ve got to demand high standards of ourselves and we’ve got to really take this opportunity – it’s a massive opportunity for a lot of players, everyone involved.”
The Barbarians have named a typically star-studded line-up including former England captain Mike Tindall, Welsh duo Dwayne Peel and James Hook and Italy's Andrea Lo Cicero, and will present a particularly physical attacking challenge for Lancaster's charges, but Webber is keen to stick to the game plan.
“They’ve got a fantastic team, 800 caps or so I think across their 23.Their front row is big and heavy, they’ve got a big tight five. We just have to react to what they do on the pitch. I think it’s important that we focus on implementing our structures and our patterns of play that we’ve worked on all week and not get drawn in to anything they want to throw at us. It’s more about us and staying on task with what we’re trying to do.
“We’re taking this game on as a big game and a big start to our trip and we want to get the win and get off to a good start.”