England's Chris Robshaw in pole position for British & Irish Lions captaincy

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Chris Robshaw is now the front-runner to be named British and Irish Lions captain after his second successive man-of-the-match performance in a 23-13 victory over France on Saturday.

The 26-year-old, who only won his first Red Rose cap less than three years ago in a 24-22 loss to Argentina, was named as England's skipper ahead of last season's Six Nations by Stuart Lancaster.

Facing competition from the likes of Ireland legend Brian O'Driscoll and current Irish skipper Jamie Heaslip, plus Wales's Sam Warburton, Robshaw has led England through a difficult opening three fixtures in inspirational style

Unlike last autumn, there have been no controversies. The Harlequins number seven was roundly cricitised for his decision to go for goal when England were trailing South Africa 16-12, missing out on the opportunity to notch a try in the closing moments of the Test.

Showing his self-confidence and mental strength, Robshaw went on to star in England's historic 38-21 victory over New Zealand, who were unbeaten in 20 games, in December to banish the painful memories of the Springbok loss at Twickenham.

He's continued his form in the current championship. Robshaw has encapsulated the determination and heart of the current England side, mirroring head coach Lancaster, thriving under the added pressure of leading the Red Rose.

The captaincy has brought the best out of Robshaw, particularly since the start of the 2013 edition of the championship, forging a unity in the squad and restoring national pride in English rugby after a disastrous and humiliating World Cup campaign in 2011.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has already lavished praise on Robshaw since the start of the Six Nations, claiming the Red Rose star has "reinvented" himself in international rugby - an indication that the Quins man is very much in the captaincy reckoning.

Gatland was intrigued to see how Robshaw's match-up with Ireland openside Sean O'Brien would pan out at the Aviva Stadium, and the Red Rose skipper passed the test with flying colours, earning the man-of-the-match award in a 12-6 victory.

In Gatland's Wales camp, Warburton is out-of-form and out-of-favour with interim coach Rob Howley who left the Wales captain on the bench after the Cardiff Blues star was made available for their Italy trip.

Robshaw's biggest competition comes from Ireland but Heaslip, who is likely to feature for the Lions despite a disappointing campaign, has already come into criticism for his captaincy since replacing O'Driscoll.

The Leinster number 13 has also endured a mixed tournament. The 33-year-old was the standout performer in a victory at the Millennium Stadium but produced an ineffectual display at Murrayfield last weekend.

So for England's Robshaw, there is a real chance to move clear of the other candidates in the race for the Lions captaincy in the coming weeks ahead of their Grand Slam deciding clashes against Italy and Wales.