Robshaw shrugs off speculation

Chris Robshaw is facing questions once again
Chris Robshaw is facing questions once again

Chris Robshaw insists experience has equipped him to handle the renewed speculation over his position as England's captain and openside.

Robshaw's international future is an annual talking point, but this year the debate began after just two matches when he was outplayed by Saracens' Will Fraser in a game that saw Harlequins crushed 39-0.

Stung by the criticism, the 28-year-old reacted by spearheading Saturday's 26-23 Aviva Premiership victory over Wasps with an all-action display decorated by a try.

Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea later spoke of the "cheap, uneducated and ill-informed" comments made in the media and questioned whether there was an agenda against his flanker.

Facing down critics has become a regular feature of Robshaw's England career and having previously routed Matt Kvesic's challenge for his back-row place and seen off Tom Wood's claim to the captaincy, he is well-rehearsed in the art of defiance.

"It's been no different from year to fact it's been pretty similar for me for the past three seasons," Robshaw told Press Association Sport.

"The fact I've been through it before helps. After you've been through it a couple of times your shoulders get broader and you surround yourself with good people.

"There's no magic formula to this type of stuff. You crack on and work hard and you improve your game.

"All I can do is go out there and put in the performances, not worry about what's being written and said.

"You have sympathy when it's written about other guys and when it's written about yourself, your team-mates show you the same support.

"I've been through a lot of it before like many players have. You stay away from it and focus on your game.

"It was nice to get a try against Wasps, even though it was probably from minus two metres! It's just good to win the game."

Robshaw's work rate has served England well. Throughout his 28 caps he has consistently emerged as his team's most prolific tackler and ball-carrier, while his bravery and commitment are beyond question.

Apart from the occasional wobble, most notably during the 2012 autumn series, he has also proved a fine captain at ease with the task of leading Stuart Lancaster's overhaul in squad culture.

But it is clear England want greater presence from their openside at the breakdown, particularly at contesting possession and slowing down opposition ball, and it is an element of his game where he falls short against top international rivals.

Kvesic sank without trace following a promising tour of Argentina last year and Robshaw has since been unchallenged at a time when Lancaster needs depth in the position.

Fraser could be the player to apply pressure if two injury-ravaged years are put in the rear view mirror, while James Haskell is also arguing a case for consideration after revelling in his new role as Wasps captain.

"As players, and international players, we are there to be shot at," Robshaw said.

"You speak about how hard it is to get there - well it's even harder to stay there.

"There are always a lot of people nipping at your heels."

Haskell, a star of last weekend's shock win against champions Northampton, was superb again at Twickenham Stoop.

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young refused to be drawn into analysing the Haskell v Robshaw duel, but had a kind word for Quins' openside.

"Haskell is easily our most effective performer in the tackle area," Young said.

"He tops our tackle count every week and he's taken to the captaincy like a duck to water.

"It's not for me to talk about another team's player, but it's very rare that Chris Robshaw doesn't play very well."