Robshaw limbo: Lancaster holds fire on naming England captain for autumn Tests
21:00 GMT, 25 September 2012
Stuart Lancaster has left the door open to a renewed contest for the England captaincy by stopping short of endorsing Chris Robshaw as the long-term Test leader.
The head coach on Tuesday insisted that he and his assistants would name a skipper for the autumn series at Twickenham once the squad are together again, prior to the opening match against Fiji on November 10.
Harlequins flanker Robshaw did an accomplished job during the Six Nations and in the first two Tests against South Africa in June. But in his absence through injury, hooker Dylan Hartley took over and led England to a draw with the Springboks in Port Elizabeth.
In the balance: Robshaw has not been confirmed as England captain for the autumn internationals
Robshaw was present at the launch of the new national kit last week, suggesting his status is not in immediate danger, but Lancaster will bide his time over an official announcement.
‘We haven’t decided on the captain yet,’ he said. ‘We’ll sit down when we meet in camp, we’ll look at who’s available in terms of form and fitness, obviously. Clearly Chris has done a fantastic job. There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be strongly considered. But Chris could get injured as he was for the third Test when Dylan stepped up. So it’s too early to say this guy is going to be captain.’
Lancaster, speaking at the launch of the BMW Performance Academy, agreed that the principle is to choose the best team first, then the captain.
‘That’s the only way to do it,’ he said. ‘In terms of the captaincy, I wouldn’t say it’s over-played – being England captain is a big job. But a strong leadership group surrounding the captain is equally important – the decision-makers that support the captain; the nine, 10 and line-out caller.
Kitted out: Robshaw modeled England's new strip last week
‘The plan is ideally to name him for the autumn internationals. But we named Chris for the South Africa tour, then lost him for the last Test so we’ve got to be able to change and adapt as we go. While Chris was missed on the field, Dylan did a fantastic job captaining the side. The fact we got a performance out of the team on the back of a long, hard season was credit to Dylan and the rest of the players.’
Both Robshaw and Hartley have begun the season in fine style for their clubs, Quins and Northampton, who are both unbeaten from four Aviva Premiership games. The equation may be further complicated by the return of Saints flanker Tom Wood, who was thought to be Lancaster’s first-choice leader until a foot injury struck him down.
Meanwhile, the coach confirmed that injured trio Ben Youngs, Alex Corbisiero and Louis Deacon are expected to be back in action by the middle of October, but Tom Croft’s rehabilitation is likely to drag on longer.
Fine form: Hartley (carrying ball) is also in contention
Bath prop David Wilson has been called into the senior squad in place of Matt Stevens, who has retired from international rugby, with the vacancy in the Saxons ranks being filled by Mako Vunipola of Saracens.
ERC chairman Jean-Pierre Lux has reignited the TV rights war with leading English clubs by criticising Premiership Rugby’s controversial deal with BT Vision.
Referring to the four-year agreement worth up to 152million, the Frenchman said: ‘This is illegal. The English did not say anything about how the money will be shared between the domestic and European competitions and how it will be shared with the other countries’ (clubs). We may have to move on without the English, though I do not want it.’