- England captain confident after Heineken Cup success with Harlequins
- “Fofana will hurt us if we let him” – Robshaw
Chris Robshaw has been able to call upon encouraging omens from Harlequins’ Heineken Cup campaign ahead of England RBS 6 Nations opener in Paris on Saturday (February 2, kick-off 5pm), but remains well aware of the dangers France will pose.
Robshaw’s Harlequins impressed hugely on their two trips over The Channel – first salvaging a last-gasp losing bonus point away to Clermont back in October thanks to a Nick Evan drop-goal before dispatching Racing Metro 32-8 at the Stade de le Beaujoire six weeks ago.
While buoyed by those memories – as well as the performances of other Aviva Premiership sides against Top 14 opposition – the England captain was quick to highlight Les Bleaus’ threats, singling out a certain centre.
“[French sides] all play a similar way,” he explained. “They all have big, physical packs that are very good in the scrum, the maul, the lineout – all aspects of forward play.
“Behind that, you’ll have an agile backline generally who can hurt you. Clermont have [Wesley] Fofana, who will be playing for France as well. He hurt us once or twice and if you give a player like that space, they can cause you problems.”
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“We [Harlequins] knew that they would be dangerous but we got the breakdown right – they compete very hard there and we focussed well on that.
“A lot of guys have had a lot of interaction with French opposition – Saracens in Toulouse and Leicester [against Montpellier] and Northampton [against Castres] in the Heineken Cup group stages this season.
“It won’t be unfamiliar but they could well be saying the same things about us.”
Phillipe Saint-André has saturated his squad with size, deploying six forwards on the bench with a clear aim of winning what is sure to be a brutal battle on the gainline and at the breakdown.
After acknowledging that he would have to be at his most energetic and industrious alongside the rest of England’s pack to nullify the French replacements, Robshaw suggested that silverware – in the form of a Triple Crown, a Championship win or a first Grand Slam since 2003 – was in his sights.
“All the guys in the squad are very ambitious and they want to go out there and win things,” he finished.
“We’ve been together now for two years and we’re starting to understand each other. Every time we come into camp things are clicking quicker and we’ve evolved.
“We feel we have been creating opportunities but not quite taking them, so hopefully we can do that this campaign.”
some key errors in my department – we dropped the ball at a lineout and they scored two phases later.
“There’s still a lot more to come.”