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Robshaw on RWC2015, dyslexia

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How a battle with childhood dyslexia helped forge Chris Robshaw's England captaincy

There was a time when Chris Robshaw would have been driven daft at the prospect of being at an England Test match and not being able to play. Not any more.

The 32-year-old has lost none of his drive and ambition to add to a tally of international appearances that has been stuck on 66 since his last run for his country in Cape Town last June.

The former Test skipper thought he was close to bridging this nine-month gap when involved in training in the lead-up to last week’s Six Nations win over Italy.

He didn’t make the cut in the end – and wasn’t called back either this week to give a dig-out in the countdown to this Saturday’s encounter with Scotland.

However, rather than run a mile from the frustrating prospect of sitting in a stand and having no control of the action that will unfold in the Calcutta Cup, Robshaw will be readily cheering on England in a fixture that will become a title decider if Ireland upset Wales earlier in the day.

(Continue reading below…)

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“I will be at the ground. I have sold my soul and I will be doing the old corporate,” he explained to RugbyPass. “I will be there supporting the guys.

“I have been enjoying my rugby (at Harlequins) and to get called back to England was fantastic. Whenever you have that opportunity is brilliant, the intensity of the training, the skills, the weights, it’s where you want to be, where you aspire to be.

“To have a taste of that again excites you and drives you on because that is where you want to be. That is where we all aspire to be – we want to be at the top level, so to have that taste has made me as hungry as ever.”

Coping with adversity is something Robshaw is now more adept at doing. He smiles far more frequently and no longer looks like the player who had the weight of the world on his shoulders when England crashed out of the 2015 World Cup with him as their skipper.

He might not have played in this year’s Six Nations, but his wealth of experience made sure he still wielded a positive influence, Robshaw revealing he was a shoulder for Kyle Sinckler to lean on after the young prop found himself in the eye of a storm following the round three loss at Wales.

“I will learn from that [Wold Cup 2015]. It will always be something that will be part of me. There are ways that you can help yourself to move forward, but you will always have that pain. You learn lessons and you deal with things.

England prop Kyle Sinckler (left) reacts during the Six Nations defeat to Wales last month in Cardiff (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

“For me now, personally it’s about using that experience to help guys when they are in a tough time, helping the likes of Kyle Sinckler after the Wales game when he had a bit of a backlash. Unless you have been in situations like that you don’t really appreciate what they are like. It’s just trying to be there for people.

“I’m trying to evolve. The stress and worrying and whatever else is gone from me. Your shoulders get a bit broader, you’re chest gets a bit bigger and you learn what is important.

“When I was younger it was pretty stressful. Captain of Harlequins, captain of England, the ups and downs, the roller coaster of professional sport. Now in the latter part in my career I know what to value and I know what is important. I know how to get the best out of my body and I know how to hopefully help other people as well.”

Chris Robshaw tackles Mark Wilson during an England training session at Pennyhill Park last week (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Robshaw was in his element doing precisely this on Wednesday night, visiting the Warlingham RFU under-10s at the invitation of Premiership Rugby title sponsors, Gallagher. Their England-wide Train with your Heroes initiative brought him back to days of yore when he was a kid mingling with the rugby stars of that particular time.

“I remember we went to watch a game at Twickenham, Leicester against Bath, and you had Martin Johnson, Leon Lloyd, Austin Healey walking up the stairs past you. You were thinking, ‘Wow’ and we were able to pat them on the back, all that sort of stuff.

“It’s something that I still remember now,” he said, adding that his battle with childhood dyslexia is a regular topic of conversation when he attends community functions such as the one in south London the other night.

Gallagher Insurance, Premiership Rugby’s title sponsor, paired Warlingham RFC U10s up with Harlequins trio Chris Robshaw, Charlie Mulchrone and James Horwill at a Train with your Heroes event on Wednesday (Photo: Phil Mingo)

“A lot of teachers, students and parents come up and probably half the questions I get are actually about that [dyslexia]. What did I do? Do I still struggle? Hopefully I can help children with what I say because I struggled massively.

“It was a time when I was frustrated, I was angry, I was not understanding things and it wasn’t until later in life and in my rugby now where I’m more relaxed that you really appreciate the work that you put in to get over it and you appreciate the work that everyone around you did to help you grasp it.

“What is hugely important is understanding what makes people tick. There isn’t one message for all but it’s about understanding that there is a lot of brilliant people who are fantastic about helping people understand it, helping children improve as individuals and grasp things that they don’t understand and don’t know why.

“For me that was a big thing. I couldn’t understand why all my friends were able to understand things and I wasn’t grasping it. As a young boy that was pretty tough. I remember there was a time when I had to spend an extra break in class and couldn’t go out and play and I hated it, but I really see the benefit of it now.

“The advice is stick with it. Certainly later in life you will really appreciate the work you put in now, the work that your teachers or your parents have put in because they want you to get better.”

Turning back to the rugby, Robshaw can’t wait to see what the weekend brings. If results fall a particular way, England can be crowned Six Nations champions for the third time in four seasons. That would be quite an outcome given the hysteria which surrounded the team three-and-a-half years ago when they bombed out of their own World Cup.

Danny Care, James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Dan Cole celebrate after England clinch the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam with a win over France (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

“We peaked at the wrong time for that World Cup and that was a tough time for myself and everyone involved. It wasn’t ideal. Stuart (Lancaster) left and Eddie (Jones) came in and we got England back on track. If things go to plan Saturday, to win that amount in that period is a hell of an attempt.

“It also makes you appreciate how special and how hard titles are to come by. The teams you have to beat home and away and whatever else, it’s extremely tough and to get it would be incredible. This weekend is going to brilliant. Hopefully Ireland can do England a favour. They [Wales-Ireland] have always been tight matches… but England are scoring tries which is good. They are testing themselves.”

Chris Robshaw spoke to RugbyPass at a Gallagher Train with your Heroes session at Warlingham RFC

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How a battle with childhood dyslexia helped forge Chris Robshaw's England captaincy