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Stuart Lancaster will stick with Chris Robshaw until openside flanker arrives

Features Posted 24th October 2013 view comments

When it came to the England captain I don't think Stuart Lancaster had any other choice but to stick with Chris Robshaw.

I still stand by the fact that England are struggling to find an out-and-out No.7 - Lancaster has admitted that himself - but until they do, then Robshaw is the man for the job.

He has not let anyone down and I think his captaincy has improved, and even though he has made a few mistakes, we all do that.

Robshaw: right man for the job

Robshaw: right man for the job

Tom Wood was thrown into the mix after he led England on their successful tour to Argentina but that was just because Robshaw was rested.

Wood will still play an important part for England this autumn and will be seen as one of the senior men in the team that Robshaw will rely on.

Problem

Robshaw is not the flashiest of backrow players but you don't want flashy - you want someone to do the job and someone to lead and control the side.

England have a powerful front five, but when they come up against a front five who get parity or get one over them, that is when you really see their lack of a specialist flanker.

Dewi Morris
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At the moment he is that man. Whether he is or isn't he a specialist 7 often overshadows the good work he does - though, saying that, it is still a problem for England.

On current form Robshaw has carried England pretty well through last autumn and the Six Nations. I was also impressed with his incredible work rate against Clermont Auvergne.

He had 7 on his back in that game but played a No.6 role while Luke Wallace, who was wearing the No.6 jersey, played a No.7 role.

I am slightly biased when it comes to the role of a No.7. Where are the key areas in rugby? For me, it is the breakdown and the key man to rule that area is an out-and-out 7, be it a McCaw, a Pocock or a Hooper.

These are the guys that influence the decisions.

Balance

I am talking from experience because I have dealt with some very good 7s - the likes Neil Back and Peter Winterbottom - and I know the advantage of having someone like that in your side. At the moment we have this imbalance in the England backrow.

You can get past that imbalance if your front five are dominating and powerful but it is when that momentum slows down and you get on the back foot that you have to have your 7 making the same impact.

Robshaw's role is a more carrying and linking one rather than getting over the ball. He can do it and he does do it but it is not natural for him and he is playing slightly out of position.

England have a powerful front five, but when they come up against a front five who get parity or get one over them, that is when you really see their lack of a specialist flanker.

We all thought Matt Kvesic would build on his form from Argentina with Gloucester but it has not happened. Will Fraser is back from injury and needs more time. Luke Wallace is looking good but is he good enough to get in ahead of Robshaw?

Lancaster was right to stick with Robshaw as captain and will stick with him until a specialist No.7 comes knocking on the England door.

Comments (2)

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William Harrison says...

I think the thing that saved Robshaw was Tom Croft getting injured. Had Croft been fit Robshaw would have struggled to get in the side as Croft, Wood and either Morgan or Vunipola would surely have made up the back row.

Posted 12:23 5th November 2013

Fred Pike says...

Well done Dewi - as you played behind Back and Winterbottom, you clearly know what you are talking about! That is the best balanced and articulated analysis of our No 7 problem, and how it impacts on the whole side, that I have seen for some time, amidst all the flotsam of the rugby media. I really get fed up with all the so called armchair experts, many of which, have never played the game, saying it is not that important, you just need experience.

Posted 17:38 4th November 2013

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