Experience or youth is an argument that has rumbled through the world of sport for many a decade. The spritely energy of a young up-and-comer, or the cunning and prowess of a seasoned campaigner?
These queries and questions were in abundance this week after the emergence of Chris Robshaw’s implementation as England’s rugby union captain at the tender age of 25, and with only one full international cap under his belt. Stuart Lancaster promised rugby fans an experimental squad, with an average of just 25, and a captain of the same age to boot.
Despite the concern, the evidence seems positive for Robshaw’s youth at the wheel: the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and Will Carling proving that young captains, taking over at 26 and 22 years old respectively, can be extremely successful at international level.
The recent performances of 23-year-old Wales skipper Sam Warburton at the 2011 Rugby World Cup, shines a promising light on Robshaw’s chances. This season’s successes at Harlequins has done him no harm, but can he step up to the international stage with the same barnstorming leadership he has demonstrated at both Premiership and European levels?
After England scraped past a strong Scotland side on Saturday, it was hard to find evidence of captaincy aiding in victory, as Scottish chances to win the match were not taken.
However, it was also hard to find fault in Robshaw’s performance, and in the end, he dragged England over the line. Lancaster was quoted as “extremely chuffed for his team” and “enjoyed the moment of winning at Murrayfield, next step, Rome” during a post-match interview.
Despite the media circulation around Robshaw, it was the Scottish tight-five that impressed on the day: man of the match David Denton’s physicality throughout alongside Scotland’s huge second row forward Richie Gray and the ever-present Ross Rennie stole the show for the Scots, despite the seven-point loss.
The next test for England is at the home of the Italians, who turned out to be quite a handful for France on Saturday, although not reflected by the score line. Now Robshaw has a piece of silverware in the form of the Calcutta Cup under his belt, perhaps his prowess will show in Six Nations round two.