Chris Robshaw is a man on a mission now that he is back fit and firing for Harlequins – desperate to prove to Warren Gatland he deserves a spot on the Lions tour to New Zealand.
Gatland names his touring party to face the All Blacks later this month, with the battle for back-row spots fierce, with as many as ten players with realistic hopes of boarding the plane.
Robshaw has been the cornerstone of the England side since inheriting the captaincy in 2012, but missed the last Lions tour to Australia in 2013 as Gatland opted for a mostly Welsh back row – and after suffering a shoulder injury at Christmas, history looks set to repeat itself.
Eddie Jones’ arrival in 2015 sparked a return to form for the Quins back rower, with Robshaw becoming one of the most consistent flankers during England’s unbeaten run in 2016, making his injury ahead of this year’s RBS 6 Nations all the more galling.
But now he is fit and back in Harlequins’ colours after an enforced three-month absence, Robshaw is desperate to get out and show his worth to Gatland in the remaining Premiership games.
“Like everyone else I want to be on that plane but I have got to be out there playing well and I know I need to do that in the next couple of games to show my worth,” Robshaw said at the launch of the Crabbie’s National Rugby Awards at Twickenham.
“It was fantastic to watch the RBS 6 Nations but you want to be out there playing. For England, it was always the ambition to win the Championship and that is the important thing.
“Yes, we wanted to win the Grand Slam but winning the title was vital for us so we are delighted to get it done.
“I can’t wait to get back out there on a regular basis. I love watching the game but of course I want to be out there. I’m so pleased to be back in Harlequins’ colours, it has been a long time coming.
“When you are injured it is tough but you have to be positive with it and make sure you do rehab, weights and make sure you are up to speed.
“Obviously the challenge is making it on the plane to New Zealand but for the time being all I can do is try and press my claims by playing well for Harlequins.”
England boss Jones questioned his side’s leadership qualities before the RBS 6 Nations, admitting his team was short of experience and drive.
Missing the likes of former skipper Robshaw through injury, Jones has relied heavily on skipper Dylan Hartley during England’s record-equalling run of 18 consecutive wins.
England may have missed out on a second consecutive RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam but Robshaw insists the Red Rose’s run and integration of younger leaders such as Joe Launchbury, Billy Vunipola and Owen Farrell has taken the team to a new level.
“You want to make sure there is great leadership structure and ensure you have a group of guys who lead both on and off the pitch,” added Robshaw, who is an ambassador for the Crabbie’s National Rugby Awards, which are designed to honour the achievements of all the thousands of rugby clubs up and down the country.
“Eddie has been a big believer in that, you have Dylan at the top but then guys like Owen [Farrell], Mike [Brown] and Billy – plus George Ford and Ben Youngs and they all have the capability to really drive training, and that is hugely important and has been a massive factor for England.
“I think that is the thing with Billy, he has grown hugely in the last 18 months and become a leader. He speaks quietly but he has authority.
“He has a great way of getting through to people and that is an important thing to have, and then obviously on the ball he is a talent – the way he runs through people but his rugby brain is also phenomenal.”
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