House of Payne: Relieving Robshaw of the Harlequins captaincy is the right move

Leading on one front: Chris Robshaw has been relieved of his Harlequins skipper duties to concentrate on his England leadership

Leading on one front: Chris Robshaw has been relieved of his Harlequins skipper duties to concentrate on his England leadership

First published in Sport by

Could you have imagined a year ago Steven Gerrard being relieved of the England captaincy to take the pressure off him ahead of football’s World Cup? It simply wouldn’t have happened.

However, that’s the stance taken by Quins this week in easing the burden on Chris Robshaw by passing his club responsibilities on to England team-mate Joe Marler.

Robshaw has been a magnificent leader for Quins over the past five years, leading the club to its first ever Premiership title in 2012.

It is a brave decision by Quins director of rugby Conor O’Shea, taken in consultation with the 28-year-old flanker, but it is one which makes perfect sense.

As O’Shea said: “He has a massive year ahead of him and it will allow him to focus on being at his best for both club and country.”

It is the kind of bigger picture that simply does not exist in football.

West Ham fans proudly claim that they won the World Cup in 1966 with Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters getting the goals in the final for a team led by Bobby Moore.

Nowadays, though, with foreign ownership, foreign managers and foreign players, just about the only things that are home-grown about Premier League clubs are cities in which they play and most of the supporters who actually attend matches.

However even that should not be an excuse. O’Shea, of course, is Irish but there are few people who have been as influential in promoting English talent in recent years, both in his role as RFU national director and now at Quins.

And, in considering Robshaw’s best interests a year before a World Cup, that is what he is doing again.

Marler, at 24, is already a fixture in the England team and is a year older than Robshaw was when he took on the Quins captaincy.

He could barely have a better environment in which to take on the job with O’Shea and Robshaw around to provide support and advice.

And the incentive could not be greater. Make a success of the Quins job and Marler will be a prime candidate to be Robshaw’s England successor.

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