Chris Robshaw: ‘Before Eddie Jones England were always nearly-guys’

Former captain, who insists he is happy to play at openside or blindside flanker, reveals his Six Nations ambitions for England by saying: ‘Grand slams are special’

It did not take Eddie Jones long after he took charge of England at the end of 2015 to appreciate that his assessment of Chris Robshaw during that year’s World Cup as a forward who did not have a point of difference, was a club rather than an international player and not an openside flanker, was unfair.

Jones dropped Robshaw as captain but picked him in his first team, at blindside flanker, and has come to increasingly rely on a player whose unassuming qualities are best appreciated inside the England camp. Robshaw not only led the side again against Samoa last November but played at openside, where he starts against Italy in England’s Six Nations match in Rome – proof that while Jones has forceful opinions, he is prepared for players to prove him wrong.

Robshaw says: “The difference Eddie has made is on the mental side. He gives you the confidence to go out there and play well. A number of coaches will tell you to go away and work on 10 things and if you do all 10 they will find something else and you still won’t be in the team. He will tell players to work on two or three aspects and is very to the point. He is bullish with his approach and that has made this side ballsy.

“I am enjoying playing for him. This week he told me I was playing 7, ‘Go well,’ and that was it. It makes no difference to me because I have played there in half my matches for Harlequins this season. It does not matter to me whether I play 6 or 7: I just go out and do my bit. It is all about running lines and defensive positions and it comes together pretty naturally on the pitch.”

Robshaw led England in four Six Nations campaigns from 2012. They finished second every time but have won the two since Jones has been in charge, largely with the same group of players.

“Eddie is the best man-manager I have ever met,” Robshaw says. “Every morning he will come in and speak to every single person on every table, giving you that personal touch. He knows how to get the best out of you whether he does it through texting, a bit of shouting, love that gives confidence or some banter. He reads people extremely well.

“I have a good relationship with him. He will let me know if there is an aspect of my game he wants me to work on and if I am doing something right he will let me know. That is a side of coaching that can get forgotten: it is easy to put people down, but praise generates confidence that can go a long way.

“Don’t get me wrong, he works us extremely hard but that is to get the best out of us. We train at high intensity, always pushing and testing yourself, so when we get to games, you are still thinking clearly and making the correct decisions in the final 10 or 15 minutes.”

A team that made history by exiting the World Cup they were hosting at the group stage are now, 19 months from the tournament in Japan, second to New Zealand in the world rankings. “We were always the nearly-guys before,” Robshaw says. “We had some great games but we were not quite ruthless enough, something Eddie has instilled in us.

“We have picked up silverware and gone unbeaten in series at home and abroad. You always want to win things: playing in finals and Six Nations deciders and picking up silverware are what you will look back on and enjoy. You listen to pundits in various sports and see the list of trophies they won: you want those accolades under your name and be part of a team that has done that. Grand slams are special and you have to work bloody hard to achieve them.”


Paul Rees

The GuardianTramp

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