- Chris Robshaw on trying to retain the Premiership title
- Harlequins skipper gives insights into team ethos
Chris Robshaw knows good teams win titles, great teams retain them and the Harlequins captain is expecting a stern examination of his side as they prepare for a first defence of the Aviva Premiership title.
Only London Wasps’ hat-trick (2003-2005) and Leicester Tigers (2009 and 2010 ) – who have only successfully defended their title once despite reaching eight consecutive finals – have won back-to-back Twickenham showpieces since the finale was established in 2001.
And while the England captain has enjoyed a summer knowing he can always call himself a Premiership champion, the message as soon as the squad reassembled for pre-season was that they must improve yet again.
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Robshaw said: “Conor O’Shea has been very good in telling us you can’t rest on your laurels and you’re only as good as your next game.
“We know we’re defending champions and it is very exciting for everyone at the club to go out there and try and retain it. But we feel we can still improve – it’s about working on our strengths and reducing the amount of weaknesses we have.
“The threats will come from everywhere – you look at the Leicester and Saracens teams of recent years and people have gone after them because they’ve been defending champions so I’m sure we’ll be in a similar boat. There are no easy games in this league anymore, I’ve been playing in the Premiership for four or five seasons now and from my experience the league has improved year-on-year.”
Robshaw, who has led England seven times, is well aware of the sporting adage outlined above, that repeating success year-on-year is what separates great players and great sides.
With players in England’s Senior Elite Player Squad set to spend a total of 14 weeks away on international duty this season, the 26-year-old was keen to emphasise the depth of Harlequins’ squad and their success in giving youth its chance.
“The challenge ahead is to win again and that’s what great sides do,” he said. “You look at football and teams like Manchester United and what they’ve done. It shows how much the squad has to play its part and last year I think that is primarily the reason we won it. This year we’ve evolved that – we haven’t recruited that many but we’ve got a lot of young guys coming through who can come in and make the most of their opportunity.”
Photo: Getty Images
And Robshaw, who has fully recovered from the thumb injury which kept him out of the final Test in South Africa, finished with an insight into Harlequins’ success: train as you mean to play in an environment which empowers individuals to express themselves when they get a chance.
He added: “The nucleus of the starting 15 is still there and then we’ve got other guys who have come in, excelled, and really put pressure on the coaches for selection.
“We want a situation where every time you go out to train it is competitive and where every player is benefitting from each other in the squad environment. But not only that, also when other players need to step into the frame they feel comfortable enough to go out there and express themselves.”