LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Stuart Lancaster stuck with the tried and tested on Wednesday when he named flanker Chris Robshaw as his captain for the three November tests against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
Robshaw has been Lancaster’s first choice skipper since he took over the coaching duties from Martin Johnson two years ago, the Harlequins man getting the honour in only his second test.
Robshaw was rested from England’s victorious two-test tour of Argentina in June when fellow flanker Tom Wood took over the captaincy but, despite criticism of his leadership in the 30-3 Six Nations thrashing by Wales in March, Lancaster had no hesitation in returning to his first choice.
“First and foremost among criteria for captaincy is to be on the team sheet and Chris is in there on his playing ability. But on top of that he has a massive amount of respect within the squad and has led England well,” Lancaster said in a statement.
“Every team needs leaders - we are building a strong group and Chris is at the forefront of that leadership.”
The decision is no surprise as the 27-year-old 2011/12 Premiership player of the year is the sort of understated but relentlessly reliable and efficient operator the coach admires.
Despite being criticised as “not a natural open side”, Robshaw regularly tops the Premiership rankings for turnovers and tackles and has earned his place in the team on merit.
However, with several other new faces likely to feature in the Twickenham tests, beginning against the Wallabies on November 3, Lancaster was always likely to keep other disruptions to a minimum and keep faith with a man he respects highly.
“Every time you pull on that white shirt it’s a privilege. added Robshaw. ”It’s a huge honour to be named captain and to lead your country. But I’ve always said it’s not about who you are but what you do and I’ve got to make sure that I perform as a player first.
“We have some good leaders across the squad and I know we will support each other as we head into a massive game against Australia.”
Wood, who was the frontrunner to be Lancaster’s captain two years ago before a foot injury ruled him out of action for months, is expected to be picked as blindside flanker.
Editing by Ken Ferris