Watching Chris Robshaw play his last matches for Harlequins got me thinking about the first time I met him. It was early one winter morning in 2011, in a cafe near Twickenham. Six weeks earlier, England had embarrassed themselves at the World Cup in New Zealand. The fallout was long, and still going on, complicated by a series of leaks about what had gone wrong.
Their captain, Lewis Moody, had already quit, and everyone was talking about who was going to take over from him. Tom Croft and Toby Flood were the two names that kept coming up. Then there was Robshaw, an outside bet, since he had won only the one cap, and that on one of those forgotten summer tours to Argentina.
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Robshaw had not even made the World Cup squad, but he was leading Harlequins, and doing it well. The club were rebuilding after the bloodgate scandal, and so far that season they had won 10 games in a row. Robshaw spoke about how he believed the players had to start taking more responsibility for their behaviour, about the standards he set as captain.
“It is about knowing how to behave when you are in the limelight and out in the public eye,” he said, “especially having that understanding of what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing when you are representing yourself, your club and your sponsors.”
He seemed serious, earnest. Off the pitch, Robshaw had done some living. He had lost his father when he was five, and had a hard time at school because he had dyslexia. But as a player he was pretty raw. Still, a month later, he got