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Opinion: The Second Redemption Of England’s Chris Robshaw

On a night when Chris Robshaw won his fiftieth England cap, he simultaneously became a crucial element within the first ever England team to win a Test series in Australia. It was the pinnacle of a career so far that has been built on  some dizzying heights and some crushing nadirs.

It was back in 2009 that the Harlequins flanker was given his first cap against Argentina in Salta. He put in an impressive defensive shift – as always – and this looked set to be the first of many, many caps for the young player.

However, he was overlooked for the World Cup squad in 2011 – with Tom Croft, James Haskell, Lewis Moody and Tom Wood selected ahead of him.

Although clearly disappointed, Robshaw was typically diplomatic about not making the cut (via The Daily Mail):

“It was tough to take, pretty devastating even. You don’t want to be doing all the training and then missing out on the final cut.

“[Martin Johnson] and I sat down and he said his reasons and it went from there. I don’t think you ever agree with the reasons, do you? I made my points but you have to accept it. I wasn’t the only one to miss out.”

And then came the first redemption. It was Robshaw’s excellent form for Harlequins after the 2011 World Cup coupled with his determination, consistency and unquenching desire to improve that encouraged interim coach Stuart Lancaster to appoint him as England’s latest captain, despite having only one cap to his name – making Robshaw the most inexperienced England captain since legendary centre Will Carling.

Moving away from the unprofessional, naive and ill-disciplined millieu that seemed to surround England during their ill-fated World Cup campaign, Robshaw embodied the culture that Lancaster was trying to embed in England. Largely this succeeded in the first Six Nations campaign for the pair, with England losing only one game in the tournament and coming within a whisker of gaining the title despite an inexperienced coach, captain and a whole raft of young players brought in to refresh the squad and its attitude.

But Robshaw’s time as captain was one of polar opposites: leading England to a fantastic 38 – 21 victory against the All Blacks at Twickenham in 2012, but also being at the helm when the Red Rose faced arguably their worst embarrassment since the 76 – 0 fiasco, losing 30 – 3 against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in 2013, handing the title to the Welsh in the process.

The latter was a result that led many to question Robshaw’s right to lead the team and for a time it seemed Northampton flanker Tom Wood might replace the Quins player as England captain. However, despite being rested for England’s tour of Argentina in 2013, Robshaw kept the captaincy right up until the end of Stuart Lancaster’s time as England coach.

This time came through a World Cup campaign that was defined not so much by England’s inadequate, confused and inconsistent performances but Chris Robshaw’s decision to go for the corner against Wales rather than accepting a draw through a kickable penalty. With England going on to lose both against the Welsh and the Australians at home, the Lancaster-Robshaw era was unravelled within 160 minutes and it looked to be the end of both individual’s England careers.

Although the openside lost the England captaincy, newly-appointed England coach Eddie Jones converted him back to his original position of blindside and stuck with the player. The season that has followed has more than made up for any disappoints that the Quins man has encountered in his career so far.

Starting all five games in England’s first Grand Slam win since 2003, beating arch-nemesis Wales in the process, was the first big step. The next was made on this very morning – when Robshaw tackled and tackled his way to England’s most famous win since the golden days of the Woodward era.

To win your fiftieth cap by defeating the Wallabies for the second week in a row and gain a first Test series win in the process is a beautiful way for Robshaw to rise up again from the ashes for the second time in his career. He is finally achieving the success that the colossal amounts of blood, sweat and indeed tears shed deserve. English rugby’s most respected gentleman now has the trophies to go with his effort. It is Robshaw’s second redemption.

Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.