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On This Day 2004: Jason Robinson becomes first black player to captain England

By Paul Smith
Jason Robinson testing defenders (Photo by David Jones - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Jason Robinson became the first black player to be named as England captain for a rugby union Test on this day in 2004.

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The World Cup-winner was handed the role by head coach Andy Robinson in place of the injured Jonny Wilkinson for the Twickenham clash against Canada the following weekend.

Robinson, the Sale Sharks skipper, also became the first former rugby league player to lead the national side.

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“It’s not something I have deliberately sought but I am understandably excited at the prospect of being England captain at Twickenham on Saturday,” said the full-back, who switched codes in 1999 after a glittering career in the 13-man game with Wigan.

Robinson went on to mark the occasion in style by scoring a hat-trick in a 70-0 win. Josh Lewsey and Mark Cueto also scored two tries apiece with further touchdowns from Mike Tindall, Charlie Hodgson, Will Greenwood, Lewis Moody and Hugh Vyvyan.

“It’s great to be captain, score three and for the team to play like that is great,” said Robinson, who led England a further six times.

He retired in 2007 having won 51 England caps.

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Northampton back-rower Courtney Lawes followed in Robinson’s footsteps last weekend when standing in for Owen Farrell in his country’s emphatic win over Tonga at Twickenham.

And like the trailblazing Robinson before him, Lawes also marked the occasion with an outstanding piece of individual skill when he tracked back fully 80 metres to make an astonishing try-saving tackle on Tonga’s former Leicester full back Telusa Veainu.

England head coach Eddie Jones named Lawes as one of three vice-captains ahead of the current Autumn International Series. Loose head prop Ellis Genge is also on this list and may therefore be the next name added to this distinguished group.

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Former England under-20’s skipper Maro Itoje is another who is often mentioned as a future captaincy candidate – and was in many quarters a favourite to stand in for Alun Wyn Jones when the Wales lock missed the early stages of last summer’s British & Irish Lions tour through injury.

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