Former England captain Chris Robshaw has hailed RPA players player of the year Jack Willis as “phenomenal” in the wake of his form in a Premiership where the refereeing of the breakdown this season has made the game safer for jackalling players.

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Willis, who is preparing for Wasps’ Premiership final with Exeter on October 24 and wasn’t called into Eddie Jones’ latest three-day England squad, collected his RPA award on Wednesday night after his fellow player union member recognised his incredible season where he has won a remarkable 44 turnovers – 25 more than nearest rival Blair Cowan of London Irish.

Robshaw, who will equal his heaviest season in England when he plays his 32nd game in Barbarians colours against England on October 25 at Twickenham, is a fan of the changes that have taken place around the ruck.

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The jackal has been rewarded while also protected from the kind of hits that resulted in serious knee and shoulder injuries. By limiting the amount of time it takes at the ruck, players who are static and trying to win the ball are not being repeatedly pounded by opponents who have taken a run-up to ensure they hit their target with maximum force.

Robshaw told RugbyPass: “You’re not getting that situation where you have survived one clear-out and you’re waiting for the second and the third. There is more of a safety element, so you’re not getting those big collisions time and time again. 

“Of course they are still will be collisions and things have changed from the first two weeks of the season when it was very quick and you were on the ball for a split second before the referee made a decision. Now, they give you a second or two to show that you do have proper contact with the ball and then you are rewarded.

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“It is balanced out and the change is good and rewards players who are over the ball. Jack Willis has got more turnovers than anyone else and that is phenomenal. 

“It has speeded things up and you shouldn’t get frustrated with the situation when you are playing out there and have the attitude that you may lose a couple but you will also win a couple. There are more turnovers happening now,” added Robshaw, the 66-cap ex-England skipper who is joining San Diego Legion in the USA from Harlequins. 

 

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