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Robshaw wants to build on England win

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Sportal.co.nz     20 Jan 2013     Getty Images

It was a remarkable end to a remarkable year for Robshaw, who led England into a new era and Harlequins to their first Aviva Premiership title.

Robshaw is only the sixth member of that club and the first inductee since Martin Johnson, the only captain to have beaten the All Blacks twice.

In the eyes of Lewis Moody, Robshaw's predecessor as England captain, that is not the only thing the two leaders have in common.

"I have been very impressed with Chris, he has done an outstanding job," Moody told Press Association Sport.

"As players you want to be inspired. Martin Johnson was never the greatest orator. He always had some words to say but the reason you followed him is because he would die for the team, die for the cause.

"He would throw himself into everything and Chris is very similar. His approach to the game is to just play and he is not worried about the other stuff. He will learn.

"He came in for some criticism in the autumn for his decision-making, but leadership is not something you just suddenly become accustomed to after a handful of games.

"He is relatively young and he will continue to learn. He is improving game on game. All you can do is perform and that is all you can ask of your captain."

Those decisions haunted Robshaw for a few days. Against Australia he turned down penalty kicks at goal to go in search of a try that never came. England lost 20-14.

A week later, Robshaw ordered Owen Farrell to kick for goal with only two minutes remaining on the clock when England needed a try to win. They made a hash of the restart and went down 16-15.

"It was definitely satisfying for me, it's always nice to finish on something like that," Robshaw said.

"As a team and individually we had enjoyed a lot of good press. It was my first time really experiencing the other side.

"I went into camp [at the start of the New Zealand week] and my head was a bit down. The boys spoke to me and said 'don't worry, we're going to win this weekend and it will be fine'.

"It really made me appreciate the character of the guys we have in the England squad at the moment. It was pretty special to say stuff like that.

"When you've been kicked down and written off and this and that has been said about you, it makes you closer together."

Robshaw also had to deal with a very public debate, sparked by the performance of Australia's Michael Hooper, about whether he was enough of a specialist openside flanker.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland added fuel to the debate by suggesting Robshaw, as more of a six-and-a-half, was not the ideal candidate to play openside flanker on this summer's tour Down Under.

But Moody does not buy into that debate and Robshaw went a long way to ending it with another outstanding performance against the All Blacks, when Richie McCaw's threat was nullified.

Robshaw was England's most consistent performer in 2012. On the summer tour of South Africa he won more turnovers at the breakdown than any other international player, just as a good seven should.

"I have never been an advocate of an out-and-out seven," Moody said.

"As long as you have someone there who is doing a great job for you, like Chris is, then I don't think you need to have an argument."

The spirit that helped Robshaw through that sticky patch has been forged in the space of just 12 months. This time last year, English rugby was 'in the gutter', to borrow a phrase from forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

England head into this year's Six Nations on a wave of excitement following the All Blacks result - but Robshaw has already had to file that memory away.

The experience and the confidence gained from such a record-breaking performance is vital to the development of the team.

But so is the desire, articulated by Robshaw, that England use that result and that performance as a launch pad for greater success.

"Last season we were a new squad, new coaches and no one knew what to expect from us," he said.

"Now we have a bit more experience and everyone knows what a Six Nations involves. It's about backing up what we did last year.

"New Zealand is the benchmark of where we want to be as a team. It's where we strive to be. New Zealand has gone now, it's about the Six Nations."