Leading England to victory in the Calcutta Cup in his first game as captain will be a memory that will always be imprinted on Chris Robshaw’s mind – a boyhood dream come true.
Former Red Rose skipper Robshaw is to embark on a new rugby adventure at the end of this season when he moves to San Diego Legion in the USA’s Major League Rugby.
The 34-year-old flanker had previously announced in February that he would leave Harlequins in the summer after 16 years at the club, during which they won their first ever Premiership title.
Robshaw also represented his country 66 times, including leading England out on 43 occasions – the most in the professional era and second only to Will Carling.
His last cap came in June 2018 but in an interview with England Rugby, Robshaw reflected on the first time he captained his country in the 2012 Championship.
Despite only having one cap to his name, the then 25-year-old was trusted to oversee a team that included seven debutants as England started their campaign against Scotland in Edinburgh.
“For a lot of the squad this was the first time in an international setup, it was only my second cap and there were a lot of new faces,” Robshaw said.
“Stuart Lancaster had a meeting with me at Pennyhill Park and said they wanted me to captain the team. It was such a proud moment, such an honour and I was fortunate to have guys like Tom Croft, Phil Dowson and Dylan Hartley to help me.
“The captaincy is never about one individual, you need good people, good support, around you. Owen Farrell, who was on his first cap, already had those leadership qualities even though he was 21 at the time.
“We flew up to Edinburgh a couple of days before the match and had the captain’s run on the Friday. For a lot of us it was the first time at Murrayfield and you could feel the history of the Calcutta Cup match.”
England went into the game on the back of a disappointing World Cup campaign and without a win in Scotland in eight years – but Robshaw relished the challenge ahead of his team.
“We were aware that we hadn’t won there since 2004 and especially for those of us playing there for the first time, as part of a new regime, it was important to put a marker down,” he said.
“Time really drags between team arrival and the whistle and the danger is always that you get over emotional, too excited, especially with lots of new guys.
“It felt pretty different, leading the team out, the flame throwers, the hostile crowd. I was meeting Princess Anne and didn’t want to muck up introducing her to the team.
Singing the anthem is always one of the proudest moments. It’s brilliant hearing the crowd singing it with you. This is what you want to do, where you want to be.
The visitors found themselves 6-3 behind at the break after two penalties from Dan Parks gave Scotland a narrow lead following Farrell’s own three-pointer.
But a Charlie Hodgson try, converted by Farrell, ultimately proved enough for England to clinch the Calcutta Cup as Scotland were left to rue a series of missed try-scoring opportunities.
Robshaw said: “It’s incredible to get the win, you just grab the player next to you and hug them. We’d all put everything into winning that first game and there was a flood of emotions.
“Then it was up the steps for the trophy. Lifting the Calcutta Cup felt fantastic, that silverware has so much history. To hold it up having won was absolutely incredible but I was pretty nervous about dropping it, I’d never touched it before and I was gripping it tight with both hands.”
He added: “That first match as captain will always stay with me. I remember the emotions standing in the tunnel. It’s what you dreamed about as a kid, to lead England out.”