ENGLAND’S World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has launched a staunch defence of the credentials of current skipper Chris Robshaw to lead his country into next year’s showpiece event on home soil.
Harlequins flanker Robshaw has worn the armband in 27 of his 28 Test matches but has failed to silence murmurings from some quarters regarding his suitability to continue in the role and feature so prominently in head coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans.
Such criticism drew a stinging rebuke from Quins’ director of rugby Conor O’Shea following Robshaw’s starring role in his side’s narrow victory over Wasps on Saturday, with the former Ireland international suggesting there may be an agenda against the 28-year-old.
Although Johnson accepts Robshaw has had hurdles to overcome during his reign as national team captain, he is hopeful any continued speculation might have a long-term galvanising effect on the England camp.
“Chris has done a fantastic job since he has gone in there,” said Johnson. “He came in at a difficult time and has done a very, very good job.
“He has been away on tough tours with England and they have suffered tough losses but they have also won games which should not be forgotten.
“In the tough games he has always fronted up and been one of the better players. Anyone can look good when things are going their way, it’s when things aren’t so good you need people to stand up.
“People like to romanticise and speculate but the best thing any captain can do is play well and Chris has done that. I also think it will work for the team as the players will want to back Chris as their captain and hopefully it will bring them all together.”
The next stage of England’s preparation for the World Cup is the QBE Series against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia in November, with a delayed squad selection allowing in-form players to vehemently press their case for inclusion.
While firmly of the view England are in a healthy state heading into the autumn internationals, Johnson believes Twickenham bosses should not over analyse results at this stage.
“I do think England are in decent shape and even if they haven’t won games their performances have been consistent and there is still a long time for that to change, hopefully on the upward curve,” added Johnson.
“People love to talk about preparation for games and tournaments. Nothing breeds confidences like performances but the last two World Cups have shown that teams can turn up with a less than ideal preparation and find a way.
“The art of Test rugby in that setting is finding whatever it may be on any given day to win it. A game will not be remembered so much for its beauty but for who won.”
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