Chris Robshaw was one of the most maligned captains in England history following last autumn’s disastrous Rugby World Cup.
But 2003 World Cup winner Jason Robinson believes being relieved of the weight of captaincy has enabled the flanker to make a remarkable comeback.
In 2015, England became the first host nation in the history of the Rugby World Cup to exit at the group stage but just a few months later, the Six Nations Grand Slam proved to be redemption.
With Eddie Jones replacing Stuart Lancaster as head coach, hooker Dylan Hartley taking the captain’s armband and Robshaw switching from openside to blindside flanker, it was all change heading into the Six Nations.
And HSBC ambassador Robinson – who scored the Red Rose’s only try in their 2003 World Cup final win over Australia – insists he could have been happier to see Harlequins star Robshaw silence his critics with a string of impressive performances.
“I think it has been hard for him because Robshaw took over when there was a lot of pressure on him due to it being a home World Cup cycle and there were questions over whether he should be playing at No.7,” explained Robinson.
“No matter how well he played, people would always say that he is not a No.7 and he put his hand up about a couple of calls not going his way and he should have done different things but that is all part of learning.
“Now he has been put in his preferred position which suits him a lot better and all that weight of being England captain has been taking off him so he is just going out and playing.
“He is one of those who just gets on with it, does a lot of work and it is good that we saw Eddie Jones’ comments about his work rate being exceptional.
“There would have been disappointment to lose the captaincy but he is still able to contribute as one of the team’s leaders without all of the pressure so it has probably been a good thing for him as he can just play.”
Robinson acknowledges that the Red Rose cannot forget the lessons they learned at the World Cup but believes the young core that now exists is capable of giving the likes of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa a run for their money.
“This team can challenge the top teams – with time,” added Robinson. “This is a process and you cannot expect the boys to go from not qualifying from their group in the World Cup to winning the World Cup.
“But what we have to do now is use the disappointments and lessons from the last World Cup to build.
“Thankfully we have three and a half years to the next World Cup and when you look at the players like Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Jack Clifford and other young guys like that coming through.
“That’s not to mention people like Jamie George who are putting pressure on the senior guys in the team – that can only be good for the game.”
In Rugby Seven’s biggest year the next generation of rugby stars, inspired by the Rugby World Cup, from more than 650 teams descended on Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens to start on their own journey and break new ground http://www.rpns7.co.uk/