The victim of a rampant Welsh performance in the decisive game of the 6 Nations, Chris Robshaw was desperately unlucky not to be selected to tour Australia with the Lions. After captaining England 16 times, including last season’s famous win over the All Blacks at Twickenham, he was also rested by Stuart Lancaster over the summer, missing out on the tour to Argentina with England, but has taken the time to get the body ready for the new Premiership season.
Named as Harlequins captain in 2010, Robshaw has since led the club to Amlin Challenge Cup success in 2011 and the Premiership title in 2012. He was also named the Aviva Premiership Player of the Year for 2011/12. As the news comes from Harlequins that he’s extended his contract to stay at the London club to the end of the 2015/16 season, Take The Three caught up with a much reinvigorated Robbo!
Take The Three: Hi Chris, good of you to talk to us. How was your summer? You had a bit of time off – what did you get up to?
Chris Robshaw: It was really nice. I had about six weeks off, so played a fair bit of golf and managed to get over to the Caribbean – Antigua and the British Virgin Islands. I’ve never been that way before so it was nice to go there and see how amazing it really is.
TTT: So feeling refreshed and ready to go for the new season?
CR: Yeah very much so. We’ve been back in pre-season since 20th June and it’s been a good pre-season, though the conditioners have put us through our paces at times! But everyone’s looking forward to kicking things off in two weeks’ time.
TTT: Was it a case of completely switching off rugby or did you keep an eye on England and the Lions?
CR: Of course I’m still a rugby fan so I watched a lot of the games over the summer and the Rugby Championship which has just started. But it was good to slightly get away from the game as you play at such a high intensity and when you do get time off you do need to mentally relax and allow the body to recover.
TTT: And you missed the end of last season with an injury…
CR: I went over on my ankle playing away at Worcester a couple of games from the end [of the season] and unfortunately missed the semi-final. But now the body’s fine.
TTT: Was the end of last season a bit of an anticlimax after being champions the year before?
CR: Yeah, it’s always tough but unfortunately our game is a very physical one and these things do happen, especially at the semi-final stage. We had a couple of beers that night [after the semi-final loss to Leicester] and then everyone goes their separate ways. You don’t normally have a debrief as people are heading straight off on holiday. In fact we had that debrief at the start of pre-season when we were back in, talking about things that didn’t quite work and other things that went well.
TTT: So how do the rest of the ‘Quins boys look for the new season?
CR: They look good. We went over to Geneva for a week with a fixture against Racing Metro at the end, which was a good challenge for us. Unfortunately we didn’t get the correct result but there was a huge amount of positives to take from the game. A lot of the guys played against London Scottish [two weeks ago] and we had our last pre-season game against the Glasgow Warriors at the weekend.
So, everyone’s in good shape at this point. We’re in a pretty good place but will have to wait and see how the first couple of games go in September.
TTT: How have the new Harlequins signings fitted in with the squad?
CR: They’ve been good. Paul Doran Jones has come from Northampton, Nick Kennedy [from Toulon] and last minute Paul Sackey has also come in the last week or so. If you look at the experience they bring it’s invaluable for the squad. They’ve been fantastic in training, doing the hard work and really showing what their about.
TTT: What about elsewhere in the league – have any signings particularly stood out for you?
CR: The obvious ones have come at Northampton, [Alex Corbisiero and George North]. You saw what those guys did over the summer [with the Lions]. Especially after losing the Premiership Final last year, the Saints will want to kick off the new season with a bang.
TTT: How do you see the Newcastle Falcons getting on now they’re back in the Premiership?
CR: I’m sure Dean Richards will have been working hard over the summer. I was at Harlequins when Dean was here and he gave me my first real opportunity to play in the first team. I’m sure he’ll make them a really tough team to beat. With a man like Dean at the helm I think they’ll be looking to hang around. He’ll be looking to push and make the team a force. He’s a great man to have around, no matter what the club is. I’m sure they’ll be one of those sides that will be out there and very tricky to play against.
TTT: Kingston Park is a tough place to play at anyway…
CR: Yes it’s a very tough place to travel to. I don’t think I’ve ever had a win there. The last time we played was the 9-9 draw [at the end of the 2011-12 season, which resigned Newcastle to relegation]. It’ll definitely be a challenge to go up there.
TTT: Do you see Leicester posing a threat again?
CR: Leicester always seem to know when to make that final push. If you look at the experience of the players they’ve got, they are just exactly that and getting more and more experienced year on year. They are always going to be a force, with quality players throughout the team.
TTT: Quins won the Premiership title two years ago and the LV=Cup last year. Is Europe a focus this time round?
CR: We just want to keep building on the successes of the last few seasons. Of course in the Premiership it’s all about making sure you are in the top four come the play-offs. That’s very much our focus and then it’s knock-out rugby and anything’s possible. With the Heineken Cup we have a very challenging pool [alongside Clermont Auvergne, Racing Metro and the Scarlets] but they’re the draws you want to be playing in. It’s going to be tough with all three of the opposition but hopefully we’ll rise to the occasion and put on a good show.
TTT: What are your thoughts on the scrum engage sequence changing again.
CR: It’s one of those things where I think only time will tell. I’ve only played in one game so far in Geneva, where it was used and to be honest I quite liked it but you’d have to question the front row guys, who probably know a bit more about the finer arts of scrummaging. Obviously people want to see a solid scrum, so hopefully it’s a good move for the game.
TTT: And a quick word on your new contract?
CR: I am honoured to have committed to Harlequins. It’s a fantastic club with huge aspirations, which I am excited to be a part of. I have learnt so much in my time here and continue to do so from all the people around me, including the coaches and players. I am really looking forward to kicking off this season and winning more silverware with this great club.