England will gamble on their most inexperienced captain in 27 years when the interim head coach, Stuart Lancaster, hands the Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw the job for the Six Nations' Championship opener in Scotland on 4 February.
Lancaster's official position is that he will decide his skipper at the end of this week, after a new-look squad's first training camp near Leeds. But the 25-year-old Robshaw was decided on in the last few days, after the leading contender, Tom Wood of Northampton, suffered a toe injury that needs at least a month's rest.
Robshaw has been Quins' captain for two seasons but he had a tough final audition on Friday night, refusing points in favour of a scrum during a shock 9-8 Heineken Cup defeat away to Connacht. He led an England XV against Australian Barbarians in Perth in June 2010, however, he has played only one Test, in Argentina in 2009, making him the least capped England captain since the Wasps scrum-half Nigel Melville made his Test debut against Australia in November 1984. Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Bill Beaumont were into double figures in caps before being captain.
Only injury or a change of heart by Lancaster will prevent Robshaw leading England out at Murrayfield, where they have failed to win in three visits since 2004. Robshaw may also have to cope with playing in an unfamiliar position, No 8.
As the 12th captain from Quins, he follows Will Carling, whose record 59 Tests as England skipper began in his eighth international.