Battered Robshaw may be left outside Lions' den

England captain could miss Australia tour because coach Gatland favours a 'pure' No 7

As if Chris Robshaw does not have enough on his plate, what with 12 days of wild controversy over his decision-making under pressure and the small matter of a meeting with the brilliant All Blacks looming large on his personal horizon, the England captain's chances of taking his career to new heights in Australia next summer have taken something of a knock. Warren Gatland, the head coach of the 2013 British & Irish Lions, will pick a specialist breakaway forward of the fast and loose variety for the Test series against the Wallabies rather than a multi-purpose all-rounder like the red-rose skipper.

"When you look at the Australian bank of open-side flankers – not just David Pocock, who is a world-class player, but also Michael Hooper and Liam Gill – it's really very strong," said Gatland, who, wearing a second hat as head coach of Wales, must attempt to out-think the Wallabies in an important international at the Millennium Stadium this weekend. "The way the game is played and refereed in the English Premiership, you find a lot of teams going with 'six and a halves' rather than pure No 7s, who find it difficult to get in the game because the decisions are so loaded towards the attacking side. In Australia, we'll need a genuine breakaway."

Sam Warburton, the current Wales captain, remains the favourite for both the No 7 shirt and the captain's armband – "I thought Sam was outstanding against the All Blacks and Richie McCaw [the world's best open-side flanker] last weekend," Gatland purred – and with injuries affecting Ross Rennie of Scotland and Sean O'Brien of Ireland, it may be that he will put more clear blue water between himself and the competition in Cardiff on Saturday.

Gatland will confirm the make-up of his support staff – assistant coaches, conditioning and medical specialists, logistical experts – a week next Wednesday. He intends to meet with key tactical aides before, during and immediately after the Six Nations Championship, which begins in February, before finalising his tour party in the spring.

The coach did not attempt to disguise his disappointment at the results delivered by the home unions during this autumn international window: England have lost both Tests against major southern hemisphere opposition and do not hold out any great hope of beating the world champions in their final outing; Wales have gone under to Argentina and Samoa, as well as to New Zealand; Scotland have lost a head coach as well as three matches on the bounce.

Only Ireland have faint cause for satisfaction, having unearthed a couple of new players – the Ulster wing Craig Gilroy was mentioned by Gatland – in a couple of free-scoring performances.

He was not, however, in despondent mood. "I think what we've seen from the leading southern hemisphere sides is an ability to play with greater intensity, thanks to their recent experiences in the Rugby Championship," he said. "They've been together for weeks and they're sharper because of it. Being with Wales against the All Blacks last weekend, it was obvious that we struggled to match them for pace in the first half. But as I told the players afterwards, you don't get 73 per cent possession and 57 per cent territory in a second half against a team like New Zealand if you're no good."

Owen Farrell, the Saracens outside-half who is expected to be the one fresh face in England's starting line-up for this weekend's contest with McCaw and company, has joined the great New Zealand captain and two fellow No 10s – the All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter and Frédéric Michalak of France – on the International Rugby Board's shortlist for the player of the year award.

Eyebrows will be raised: the youngster made a thrilling start to his red-rose career in this year's Six Nations but his current form does not obviously place him in such elevated company. Unlike the wonderful Argentine back-rower Juan Fernandez Lobbe, whose omission is inexplicable.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks have lost their hard-bitten hooker Andrew Hore for this weekend's game. Hore has been suspended for five weeks for hitting the Wales lock Bradley Davies with a swinging arm at the start of the match in Cardiff five days ago and will be out of the game until mid-February.

Warren Gatland was speaking at the adidas launch of the new Lions shirt

Board acts over player release

Rugby's supreme governing body, the International Board, will attempt over the next few weeks to strengthen regulations on player release for Test matches, thereby ensuring that full-time professionals from the Pacific Islands and other "second-tier" countries will no longer be prevented or disincentivised from participating at the top level by major European clubs who have them under contract.

Earlier this month, The Independent highlighted problems faced by Fijian players who were placed under intense pressure not to make themselves available for Test rugby. The board said yesterday that "country-specific problems" would be discussed in detail at a series of meetings.

Chris Hewett

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee