Robshaw 'may regret stepping down'

England captain Chris Robshaw could regret stepping down as Harlequins skipper according to John Smit
England captain Chris Robshaw could regret stepping down as Harlequins skipper according to John Smit

Chris Robshaw will lose vital opportunities to "fine-tune" his Rugby World Cup captaincy after stepping down as Harlequins skipper this season, according to John Smit.

Former Springbok hooker Smit believes England captain Robshaw's decision to relinquish his club leadership role could backfire on the host nation's bid to land the 2015 World Cup.

England prop Joe Marler is Harlequins' captain for the new Aviva Premiership season, with Robshaw handed a sabbatical as he gears up to skipper Stuart Lancaster's side at next year's home World Cup.

World Cup winner Smit believes head coach Lancaster has turned England into serious title contenders, but admitted Robshaw could regret standing down from captaincy duties at Quins.

"I'm not so sure that's helpful for Chris to stand down at his club," the 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok told Press Association Sport.

"Captaincy's like anything, the more you do it, the more you practise, the easier it becomes, and the better you get.

"So I'm not so sure that's something I might have prescribed.

"In a World Cup year you want to be right on your game, and there's an art to captaincy as well, and so to fine-tune that art every year is important.

"So I'm not so sure that's the best decision ever."

Smit joined Land Rover's Least Driven Path initiative in taking the World Cup trophy to remote communities.

The ex-Saracens front-rower took the Webb Ellis Cup to South Africa's Cape Agulhas, Africa's southernmost tip where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean.

Natal Sharks CEO Smit admitted getting his hands on the World Cup trophy brought back fond memories of South Africa's victorious 2007 campaign in France.

Smit admitted head coach Lancaster's "humble attitude" only serves to make England more of a threat at the World Cup.

"I think England are one of the strong contenders for the title to be honest," he said.

"Lancaster has changed a lot of the culture of the team, and he's got an unbelievable pack of forwards.

"They are absolutely more dangerous with their new humble attitude, and I think they've already shown that.

"We've already seen a team that's full of no-nonsense attitude: we've seen a no-tolerance approach from Lancaster in terms of prima donnas.

"We've seen what he's done in terms of Danny Care, who's a great player: he's managed to make Danny understand what's required to be in the squad.

"And a team with that amount of talent, with a no-nonsense attitude, is going to be a massive threat."

Smit believes the Springboks must beat reigning world champions New Zealand in the current Rugby Championship to arrive in London next year confident of claiming the Webb Ellis Cup.

"It seems like every Test match is a prelude to what will be the best World Cup ever," said Smit.

"The important thing for the Springboks is to beat the All Blacks.

"They've progressed so much under Heyneke Meyer in the last two years but they haven't beaten the All Blacks yet, and I think that would be a real building block.

"All they have to do I think is arrive at the World Cup knowing that they've beaten the All Blacks previously.

"We've taken the trophy to schools and kids who would never have seen this trophy in their lives; it's really building excitement for the tournament quite nicely.

"This trophy has an aura about it, and it's having an unbelievable effect on people.

"When I see the trophy all I can think about is that seven-week journey that took us to the title in 2007.

"Without doubt the highlight of that was just the relief of the whistle, a weight just lifted off your shoulders once we'd won."