Former England captain Lewis Moody has called on Eddie Jones to keep under-fire skipper Chris Robshaw in the England set-up – even if, as seems likely, the new head coach strips him of the armband.
Moody, too, has been the public face of World Cup disappointment, having led the Red Rose during their ill-fated trip to New Zealand in 2011, and believes some of the criticism levelled at Robshaw following England’s latest failure has been excessive.
Awkwardly for Robshaw, one of those to question his abilities has been Jones himself, who wrote before taking the England job that the Harlequins flanker “doesn’t have that point of difference” at Test level.
The pair met for the first time on Saturday to discuss England’s future, in which Moody believes Robshaw still has a part to play.
“Will Chris Robshaw be the answer going forward for England? If you listen to what Eddie Jones has said about him in the past you’d probably say no,” Moody told City A.M.
“Will he be the captain for the Six Nations? I’d imagine you’d say definitely no. Will he be playing at 7? Again, I’d imagine definitely no. So that then opens the debate about whether there’s another position for him in the squad at 6 or maybe on the bench.
“I’d like to see him retained in the squad. It was incredibly harsh that there was debate about whether a young man given the captaincy was an out and out international player in the first place.”
As well as a captain, Jones has yet to appoint his assistants and although Rob Baxter has distanced himself from the position, Moody believes the Exeter boss would be an ideal candidate.
“What he’s created there on a shoestring budget, outperforming year-on-year sides that have far bigger budgets and far better players – someone like him would be really useful in that set-up,” Moody added.
“He [Jones] will need a cultural go-to guy that understands the UK, the Premiership what the demands are on the players week-in, week-out when they’re not with England.”
Despite the soul-searching provoked by the team’s worst ever World Cup performance, former flanker Moody believes Jones is taking over at an exciting time for English rugby.
“England are in a much stronger position than people give them credit for,” he said.
“After the World Cup everyone was digging into the player pool, saying ‘we just don’t have the talent’ – I disagree with that completely. The strength in depth in terms of talented players coming through is massive.
“So actually Eddie Jones is stepping into a really exciting environment.”
Lewis Moody is a NatWest RugbyForce 2016 ambassador, encouraging rugby clubs to enter for the opportunity to attend free workshops, receive financial support and pitch maintenance sessions from the RFU’s head groundsman Keith Kent. Register at www.englandrugby.com/natwestrugbyforce