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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020

England captain Robshaw says Six Nations is 'wide open' to be won

The Harlequins back row was delighted with how his side closed out the game against Ireland.

Robshaw salutes the Twickenham crowd after Saturday's victory.
Robshaw salutes the Twickenham crowd after Saturday's victory.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THIS IS A different England to the one we had grown to dislike in seasons past.

Stuart Lancaster is attempting to build something that will leave a legacy, with his plans reaching as far as the 2019 Rugby World Cup, never mind next year’s version of the tournament.

Alongside that future vision is the need to show progression in the present, a return on Lancaster placing his faith in several young players. The late defeat to France had raised real questions marks as to where England stood, but Saturday’s victory over Ireland eased the fears to a degree.

Captain Chris Robshaw was encouraged by what he saw in the endgame.

I think it’s been there before but I think it was reinforced today. You look at the character of the guys in the last four minutes and there was a lot of questions asked about us, can we close out games, and rightly so in some respects.

“You look at Joe Launchbury’s try-saving tackle, it was outstanding how he got back there and used those 6ft 7ins limbs to take down a winger. That’s what you need when guys are hanging on with not a lot left in the lungs and legs. It brings you back in and gets some momentum for yourself.”

The sense is that England always had more control of that psychic energy in this clash, with their power in contact not always being met with the unflinching physicality that Ireland needed at all times.

Jamie Heaslip tackled by Danny Care, Mike Brown and Tom Wood England's defence had answers for almost all of Ireland's attacking play. Source: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Beyond their dominance of the collisions, England’s winning try came from a thrilling burst of attacking play from the Harlequins trio of Robshaw, Mike Brown and Danny Care, something Lancaster’s team want to repeat more often.

“It was a nice little link between the three of us. It’s something here at England we’re trying to work more on, about pushing through the line and keeping our hands free to keep the ball alive.

Potentially in the first half we were trying to do that too much, giving a loose pass. It’s a fine balancing act, isn’t it? It’s something we’re developing as a team but it takes a bit of time like anything. We will master it and it will make us better.”

That’s the constant focus now for this English squad, improvement and development of their game. With so well-organised a defence and an attacking game that showed those glimpses of new elements, they will be hard to beat.

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Next up is the chance to get some vengeance against Wales, when Robshaw and co. welcome Warren Gatland’s charges to Twickenham on the 9th of March. Memories of last season’s 30-3 defeat in Cardiff are understandably set to feature in the pre-match focus.

Concurrently, Robshaw warns of the dangers of over-motivating his men at too early a stage.

“To have had the biggest defeat to a Welsh side is always tough, isn’t it? But as a squad we’ve come a long way. I think it probably did linger on a lot of guys’ minds for a while, myself included, but the guys are firmly over it now.

General view of a scrum Ireland enjoyed dominance in the scrum. Source: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“I think we would be lying if we said there wasn’t any revenge or anything like that in the build-up to it, but it’s a two-week block. Potentially last year, we played the game too early in the week and used that emotional energy and that drained our legs.

It’s about making sure we’re focused, we do the right things, get our game in the right place, but also relax and have some fun.”

Ireland were narrowly beaten, but remain top of the table after the opening three rounds. Robshaw acknowledged that this competition is a long way from decided and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s all wide open again now, isn’t it? Of course we always knew that we’d need a little bit of luck along the way, and that we can control what we control in our performance. It’s nice that it’s back open again and there’s no one clearly out in front.

“It’s exciting and that’s what you want in a tournament, you want it nip and tuck and going down to the wire.”

- Additional reporting by Patrick McCarry.

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Murray Kinsella

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