Chris Robshaw should remain as England’s openside flanker for next year’s Six Nations but only because there are so few other options in the Premiership – that’s according to World Cup winner Neil Back.
Robshaw has been the subject of much criticism following England’s dismal showing at the World Cup – as Stuart Lancaster’s side became the first host nation to fail to make the knockout stages in the history of the tournament.
Not only was his decision not to kick for goal and secure a draw against Wales a hot topic, the back-row trio of Robshaw, Tom Wood and Ben Morgan were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in their decisive pool clash at Twickenham.
The dual threat of traditional openside flankers David Pocock and Michael Hooper dominated the ruck and left Robshaw powerless to secure much-needed quick ball.
The Harlequins flanker has never been a ‘fetcher’ in the traditional sense but with Steffon Armitage playing in France and therefore ineligible, Matt Kvesic inexperienced and out of favour and Will Fraser injury-prone there is not a wealth of options for the No.7 shirt.
And until there is a structural change to the English game – Robshaw is going to be the best we have to offer according to Back.
“I think as a generalisation, the back-rows within the Premiership are ‘magnolia’, they are all strong ball carriers with an offloading game but for me Chris Robshaw is not a 7 in the same vein as a Thierry Dusautoir, a Hooper or a Pocock,” said Back, who was talking at an SSE Rugby House Party, where he surprised one lucky customer and watched a World Cup quarter-final in their living room (below).
“We don’t have a continuity man in the game, who picks the right attacking lines and attacking roles, is the first in support and is not just deciding ‘should I carry or should I offload?’
“Matt Kvesic, Will Fraser to me they are potentially a strong fit but I don’t think they’re a much better option than Chris Robshaw for the seven role.
“From the matches I’ve seen they could potentially grow into and take on the mantle, but I don’t think they are certain improvements on what we’ve got.
“It’s ultimately down to the coaching systems within the RFU and the Premiership for players to develop the necessary instincts.
“I think if we concentrate more on the attack than the set-piece, which seems to be what we’re going towards, it will come in time.”
Robshaw’s leadership has also come in for questioning, the skipper turned down a kick at goal in the closing moments against Wales that would have salvaged a draw and ultimately seen England progress to the knockout stages.
And former Leicester-man, Back, admits the whole leadership group need to have a look at themselves after a number of debacles during the tournament.
“I don’t know if Chris Robshaw is an exemplary leader because I haven’t been around the team, and though he’s certainly grown with experience as a captain, ultimately it boils down to key moments, and the decision to not take the three points against Wales – regardless of whether we could have taken the ball back to score again or not in that time,” added Back, as four lucky winners across the UK were surprised by Ryan Jones, Stephen Ferris and Hugo Southwell joining Back in visiting a member of the public for an SSE Rugby House Party.
“I thought it was the wrong decision at the time and I was sat with six or seven previous World Cup winners watching the game and to a man they said ‘what is Robshaw and England doing?’.
“When Billy Vunipola scored the fourth try against Fiji and afterwards he said he wasn’t aware that was a try-bonus point – how could he not have been made aware? I think in the Wales game not to have given Owen Farrell a shot at goal.
“Some of the players said after that we’d only have got one more point, but you’ve got to think about the two fewer that Wales would have got!
“If you take that on board with what Vunipola said, did we understand what it took to win and get out of the group?”
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