Robshaw backs England to weather Foden blow
September 19, 2012
England captain Chris Robshaw models the new England kit during a training session with Drybrook RFC in Gloucestershire © Getty Images
England captain Chris Robshaw is confident his side can cope with the likely loss of fullback Ben Foden for the autumn internationals.
Foden looks set to miss the clashes with Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand through injury after it emerged he suffered "significant damage to his ankle ligaments" while on Aviva Premiership duty with Northampton last weekend.
Robshaw admits that the enforced absence of Foden, an ever-present since Stuart Lancaster took charge of England, and other injury-plagued players like flanker Tom Croft will be a "massive" blow but insists it should be seen as an opportunity for other players to shine.
Speaking at the launch of England's new kit, Robshaw, who is expected to retain the captaincy for their testing end-of-year campaign, urged their replacements to step up to the challenge
"They will be massive losses but with that it gives an opportunity to someone else to come in - someone like Mike Brown or Alex Goode who have both been playing well and I am sure others will push their credentials," said Robshaw. "Unfortunately it is something that happens in our sport, we have to be able to react and have faith in the squad and if players come in they will not only do a job but do a great job and put pressure on that player."
Robshaw believes strength in depth is the key to England reaching their goal of a place in the top two in the IRB rankings next year and Rugby World Cup glory on home soil in 2015 with reigning world champions New Zealand providing the blueprint.
"You look at New Zealand, whether they have got a couple of injuries maybe a couple players deep and they have players who can come in and do a great job and that is where you want to be as a national side with 2-3 quality players in every position and you know that they are going to come in and do an excellent job and exceed all expectations," added Robshaw.
The race is on for a top four place in the rankings and with it a seeding for the Rugby World Cup draw in London in December and if England are to improve on their current 5th place then at least one rare victory over a major southern hemisphere side will be required.
Lancaster's charges came agonisingly close to that notable feat with a draw against South Africa in the third of their Test clashes in June and Robshaw believes it is time for them to take the next step in the "process" laid down by the coach and echoed by his skipper.
"We're not looking for excuses," insisted a defiant Robshaw. "We have spent the last year learning and it is about taking on those little points as it's about winning at the end of the day. There are a lot of positives that we can take from our performances and some weaknesses that we also need to eradicate moving forward.
"People assume that you put you squad together and click your fingers and the understanding is there," he explained. "But it takes a bit of time to understand whether a certain player looks to off load or looks to go down when they go into contact. Do they use footwork? It's these little things that you have at clubs that take a little time at international level."
These are still early days in the Lancaster tenure and Robshaw accepts that England are far from the finished article although the clock is ticking with the opening game of the next World Cup less than three years away.
"Of course the end goal is the 2015 World Cup and we all know where we want to be then and what we want to achieve," he said. "But it is also about the here and now. We still have a lot to learn still in the process and I am sure there will be some highs and lows in that time but as professional players of course we want to go out there and hopefully win every game.
"But it is also about breaking that down and thinking - OK, how do we do that? You look at every team we are going to play in the autumn series and all southern hemisphere teams and I don't think one game plan will apply to two teams let alone all four. You do have to be very quick at learning and make sure you can adjust your game to suit the opposition you are playing."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.