Kevin Garside: Chris Robshaw travels quietly on a trip that could end in Lions captaincy

Stuart Lancaster learnt to love him, and maybe we are doing so too

Travelling by Tube need not be the catastrophe it was for Roy Hodgson. The answer is to follow the lead set by the oval ball warrior Chris Robshaw, who clearly does not suffer from the same logorrhea that beset England's head coach. There were no anecdotal asides with the blokes on either side, no selection snippets that might, for example, reveal the identity of the Lions skipper in June, or end an international career. No juicy titbits at all, in fact. Why? Because, for the most part, the England rugby captain was asleep.

It is a comfort to know that there are some sporting heroes who can walk through the blizzard of bull dung and vanity without getting wet. Robshaw was travelling on the northbound Piccadilly Line just as the first tranche of Arsenal supporters were making their way to the Emirates for the encounter with Manchester City eight days ago. Episodically, he would nod off between stops. Even in his unconscious state few paid him any attention. It was clear that his fellow travellers had not a Scooby who he was, which it must be said did not seem to bother him one iota. Save for the impressive musculature barely concealed beneath his grey winter coat, there was little to distinguish him from the lads.

Sitting a few seats away, little old me thought he might have a closet Gooner on his hands. Well, who would want to volunteer that to his mates? Seemingly there was nothing for him at Holloway Road and on he rode anonymously toward the Sunday roast. The very next day at a gala dinner in London an august body of sports scribblers honoured Robshaw with the Pat Marshall Memorial Award for 2012, the highest accolade that the Rugby Writers' Club can bestow upon a player. From the shadows to centre stage, a 24-hour snapshot that pretty much sums up this quiet man of English rugby, a reluctant hero who goes about his business sans fuss or ego.

Next week the Six Nations pageant is upon us once more, with Robshaw leading England against the auld enemy at Twickenham. The contest with Scotland is heightened by the proximity of a Lions tour, the prospect of which did not feature in his wildest fantasies a year ago when Stuart Lancaster was handed the mop and bucket to clean up the mess that was England's World Cup campaign. The armband might have gone to Tom Wood, but a foot injury forced him out of the Murrayfield encounter and it was to Robshaw that Lancaster turned, low maintenance leadership on and off the turf.

Robshaw was no secret. He earned domestic plaudits and inclusion around the England fringes at Pennyhill Park, but one cap against Argentina south of the equator in 2009 was as far as it went. Maybe his brand of old-fashioned grunt and love of attrition did not chime with new thinking in a rapidly changing game seeking ways to speed up the action and the movement of the ball. Lions coach Warren Gatland condemned him to the neverland of a "six-and-a-half shirt", suggesting he is neither this nor that in his migration across the back row. But Lancaster learnt to love him during their time together with the England Saxons, and after that exhilarating thrash against New Zealand in November, maybe we are too.

It has been a slow burn. Lancaster as well as Robshaw were fair game going into the autumn internationals after the shock treatment that was the winless tour to South Africa in June. A meaningless victory over Fiji appeared even more hollow following defeat to an Australian team run ragged by the French seven days earlier. That the man of the match, Michael Hooper, happened to be standing in for that other towering No 7 David Pocock was the kind of negative twist that can usher a bloke out of a job. Hooper was equally green, but he did not have to deal with the scrutiny invited by captaincy.

The judgment to kick instead of twist in the closing minutes of the next encounter against South Africa did not help. Game, courageous, fine fellow but not the man to get England across the line against elite opposition went the song. Lancaster had a decision to make against New Zealand. He made two. He stuck with Robshaw and started with Owen Farrell at 10. His bravery was rewarded with one of the great performances by an England team at Twickenham against a side many believed to be the best to represent New Zealand. The All Blacks were All Blacked. And at the heart of the piece was Robshaw, eclipsing the great claw-hammer himself, Richie McCaw.

Asked by a child on the Fifa stage at the Ballon d'Or awards what it took to be a great player, Cristiano Ronaldo replied: "Work hard and be humble." Ronaldo kept one half of the bargain. Robshaw marches on true to both principles and, who knows, towards the Lions captaincy, perhaps?

News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
people
Life and Style
tech Manband spurn Spotify to stream album exclusively with Google
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
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

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?