No rest for Robshaw as Ospreys await

Tireless flanker faces third punishing game in a week with cup trip to Swansea
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The Independent Online

Quite what Chris Robshaw has done to offend someone important has yet to be divulged, but it must have been serious. One of the hardest-working flankers in the English game – he makes the average Trojan look like a sponger – Robshaw played a full part in Harlequins' exhausting victory at Worcester on Thursday night, having spent the best part of an entire half on the field against London Irish five days previously. His reward? A starting place against the heavily-armed Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow. Thanks ever so.

No other Quins first-teamer has been named in the XV for the thankless trip to Swansea, although two of the forwards who served alongside the blind-side specialist at Sixways two nights ago, the lock Ollie Kohn and the No 8 Tom Guest, are on the bench. The selection tells us much about Robshaw's resilience – or rather, his inability to say "you must be joking" to his formidable director of rugby, Dean Richards – and even more about the EDF Energy Cup's struggle for credibility.

The Anglo-Welsh tournament has always been awkwardly positioned, forcing the English contingent, in particular, to field second-rate sides in the pool phase. Next season, it will be a very different competition inhabiting a very different corner of the fixture list, but that is of no obvious consolation to the handful of Premiership regulars who must flog themselves through 80 minutes of undeserved purgatory while contemplating infinitely more significant slices of Heineken Cup business next weekend.

Quins will face an Ospreys side that might as well be called Wales. Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Sonny Parker, Gavin Henson, James Hook, Ian Gough and a fistful of Joneses – Duncan, Adam, Alun Wyn and Ryan – are on the teamsheet. So two are a couple of All Black loose forwards, just to rub it in. It could be messy, especially as Ospreys are the champions and rather fancy their chances of retaining the trophy.

Sale, who play Cardiff Blues this afternoon, have followed the Quins model and rested pretty much their entire first-choice side, although Jason White, tiptoeing his way back to full fitness, starts in the back row. And Saracens, who play in the last of the cross-border matches, against Llanelli Scarlets at Vicarage Road? Only two of the line-up responsible for Wednesday night's win at Bristol, the forwards Ben Skirving and Andy Saull, will start. Owen Farrell, the 17-year-old son of former Great Britain rugby league captain Andy, has a seat on the bench, and if he gets on, he will be the youngest player in the short history of the competition.

Most of the all-English fixtures feature a majority of players unfamiliar to those outside of immediate family, although Leicester have picked a strong back line for their meeting with Bath – Alesana Tuilaga on the wing, the Springbok outside-half Derick Hougaard in midfield – while Gloucester, with a squad of unusual depth, look to be treating this afternoon's contest with Wasps very seriously. Vainikolo, Lamb, Lawson, Azam, Bortolami, Hazell Strokosch... there is no shortage of recognisable names among that lot.

Yet perhaps the most competitive fixture will be at Sixways. London Irish, who welcome back the classy midfielder Shane Geraghty, face a Worcester side who, to their enormous credit, have come up with a team containing such luminaries as Chris Latham, Miles Benjamin, Sam Tuitupou and Netani Talei. All four went the distance with Harlequins on Thursday. They will be aching on Monday, that's for sure.

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