Hooker Hartley out as Robshaw keeps the armband

ENGLAND flanker Chris Robshaw is to continue as the national team’s captain for the impending autumn internationals but he will lead the side without the hooker Dylan Hartley who has been ruled out for four weeks.

The coach Stuart Lancaster’s decision to delay the announcement of his captain had created some uncertainty as to whether Robshaw would continue in the role but after also saying last month that he was undecided on the issue, Lancaster yesterday insisted that his only true misgivings surrounded the fitness of his squad.

“Chris has been outstanding on and off the field and we are delighted that he will captain the team for what will be an immense challenge in the QBE Internationals,” said Lancaster, who is also without the lock Courtney Lawes who, like Hartley, has an injured knee that is scheduled to keep him sidelined for two weeks, though the prop Joe Marler is likely to be available.

“We have a strong leadership group in this squad and I know that Chris will be well supported by them in the weeks ahead.

“It was important to wait until after last weekend’s Premiership matches to check on everyone’s form and fitness and not interrupt the players’ preparations. I have had the chance now to have a one-on-one catch-up with each player and we are really pleased to announce Chris as captain.

“The reality is [Lawes and Hartley] won’t be available for the Fiji game [on 10 November].

“We’re confident in Joe [Marler]. We were being careful with him this week.

“All the medical info I’m getting is he’ll be good to go on Monday.”

After being almost entirely overlooked by Lancaster’s predecessor, Martin Johnson, Robshaw was a surprise appointment as captain for this year’s Six Nations and after leading England to an impressive four wins from five fixtures following their understandably highly-criticised 2011 World Cup performance, he continued throughout the summer tour to South Africa.

“It’s a real honour to be asked again,” said Robshaw. “I enjoyed being captain in the Six Nations and in South Africa and this is a great group of players who really want to be successful.

“We are lucky to have some good leaders in the squad who I know I can work well with and count on their support. We have a huge opportunity to put a marker down over the next few weeks.”

PAST AND PRESENT

Robshaw’s record as captain
Scotland 6-13 England
Italy 15-19 England
England 12-19 Wales
France 22-24 England
England 30-9 France
South Africa 22-17 England
South Africa 36-27 England
South Africa 14-14 England

England’s autumn fixture list
Fiji, 10 November
Australia, 17 November
South Africa, 24 November
New Zealand, 1 December