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How a 2013 Lions tip-off broke Chris Robshaw's heart

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Despite captaining England and amassing 66 Test caps, a British and Irish Lions call-up eluded back row Chris Robshaw.

Now at San Diego Legion in the MLR, Robshaw has been reflecting back on how he missed out on two Lions tours for his column in Robshaw’s England career was just starting in 2009 but in 2013 and 2017 the Harlequin back row was part of the Lions selection conversation in both years.

He has recounted how missing out on the “pinnacle” of the sport cut him deep, in 2013 in particular.

“You see, I’d always got on with Wig. I trusted him. He was my England forwards coach, so I waited at the other end of the line with bated breath. He said quietly: “Unfortunately Robbo, it’s not good news. You’re not going on the tour. I wanted you to know, so you could brace yourself before the news goes public.”

“My heart dropped. It was not the news I wanted to hear but looking back, eight years on, he told me as a mate and that is something I will always respect.

“For the rest of the morning, everyone I bumped in to was wishing me luck for the Lions squad announcement. I’m smiling through gritted teeth, thinking, ‘Not this time’.

“I didn’t discuss it with anyone, I just put on a brave face.”

Fellow Harlequins Danny Care and Mike Brown both missed too in 2013 and 2017, although Ugo Monye made the tour in 2009.

“That’s the thing with the Lions, it’s either elation or despondency, nothing in between. I remember 2009, and the excitement when Ugo (Monye) got picked. We were all at the club cheering, but you immediately think of someone like Nick Easter, who didn’t get the call. It’s just a bittersweet moment for players you’ve sweated blood and tears with. I’ll make no bones about it; the Lions is the pinnacle. Always has been, always will be.

“It’s funny, in 2013, England were going well. We headed down to Cardiff on for a potential Grand Slam but lost heavily to Wales and Warren Gatland came out and said, ‘Things can change now’. And they did.

A string of losses for both England and Harlequins left Robshaw a long shot in 2013, a spectre that weighed heavily on the normally stoical forward.

“I remember going up to Worcester to support Quins in the LV Final. They beat Sale but I was hurting. I was there in body but not in mind. At one gym session, I packed up and left, which wasn’t like me. I told Conor (O’Shea) I was done. I needed to get away.”

Chris Robshaw dejection
Dejected England skipper Chris Robshaw at the 2015 RWC (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Robshaw would be an even longer shot in 2017 when an injury stopped him from displaying his rugby wares in the Six Nations.

“It did stiffen my resolve for 2017, but again England missed out on the chance to win the Grand Slam in Dublin, and I had to watch from afar because I’d torn an ACL in my shoulder. That vital shop window to put yourself up for selection had gone.

“I was older and wiser before the New Zealand tour, so maybe more pragmatic about not getting the call-up.”


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