Sir Clive Woodward backs England captain Chris Robshaw

Sir Clive Woodward is confident Chris Robshaw is the right man to lead England

Sir Clive Woodward is convinced skipper Chris Robshaw is the right man to lead England at next summer’s World Cup despite recent criticism of his leadership during the autumn internationals.

Following on from a three-nil series defeat in New Zealand in the summer; England lost their opening two autumn internationals against the All Blacks and South Africa in November.

He’s a brilliant player; he played really well in the autumn series and is the first name on the team sheet

Sir Clive Woodward

Despite a public outpouring for change to Stuart Lancaster’s starting personnel and perhaps even his skipper; Woodward is convinced Robshaw remains England’s best openside flanker and deserves the chance to lead his country at next year’s tournament.

Woodward drew comparisons between Robshaw’s leadership and that of 2003 World Cup winner Martin Johnson and called for perspective following an indifferent autumn series that saw England finish with wins against Samoa and Australia.

“Chris Robshaw is definitely a good captain, you just need to look at what he’s done a Quins in recent years,” said Woodward, who was speaking at the London Chess Classic, where he played in the Pro-Biz alongside British chess star Gawain Jones.

“I think the number one thing for a captain is you have to be first choice in the team and he is.

“He’s a brilliant player; he played really well in the autumn series and is the first name on the team sheet.

“His leadership skills have been improving every match and in 2003 Martin Johnson was a fantastic captain, but he had a lot of strong leadership all around him.

“What Chris needs with the England team is a whole group of them and leaders around him to help him just like Martin. I think they will have that; they are a young team and they are developing.

“But they have this one massive chance to win the World Cup playing at home. It’s a huge advantage – we saw that at the Olympics – and so it’s very exciting for them and I hope they make it happen.”

England’s progress appeared to stall in the autumn as Lancaster spoke about the need to turn Twickenham into a fortress again ahead of the World Cup and also the need to beat one of the world’s best sides in New Zealand or South Africa in November.

While Lancaster’s men may have finished second-best in both contests in November; Woodward insists the important scalp was that of Australia, as a Pool date at next year’s World Cup looms large, while rebuilding momentum ahead of the Six Nations was also the key.

England’s next international is against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in February and Woodward is convinced Lancaster is still on course to deliver on his 2015 World Cup promise.

“I think England will be a little disappointed with the Autumn Internationals as they would have probably liked to have beaten either New Zealand or South Africa as well,” he added.

“But the biggest game out of the four was Australia as we face them in the World Cup pool, and now England will go into 2015 with plenty of players coming back from injury.

“It is potentially the biggest year for English rugby ever, so they can have a successful year, and there are no reasons why they shouldn’t as the players and coaches are good enough to win.

“It was a little disappointing to not beat New Zealand or South Africa, but no more than that. You are always as good as your last game, and they beat Australia.

“The next game is against Wales in Cardiff which is obviously massive, but it’s overall a big year for English rugby and I wish them well.”

Meanwhile, Woodward has backed the benefits of chess to enhance performance on the field for team sports such as football, rugby and cricket.

Woodward, who teamed up with grandmaster Gawain Jones in the Pro-Biz Cup at the London Chess Classic this week, believes it’s not just physical attributes that makes a star performer.

The ability to encourage thinking and understanding and look multiple moves ahead are the key attributes chess encourages; similar traits to those Woodward encouraged during his spell in charge of the England rugby team.

“The skills used in chess are transferable to all types of sport because it makes you think,” said Sir Clive, who lost in the first round to Russell Picot and Vladimir Kramnik in Kensington.

“In most sports you put a huge amount emphasis on the physical side of things – football, rugby, cricket and tennis for instance – but a big chunk of it is also about thinking.

“It’s how you develop those thinking and understanding skills – especially in football and rugby when often you are playing phases ahead, the ball may be going one way but you are thinking further forward and that’s what chess is all about.

“Certainly in rugby we had plenty of things on the board, we were shifting things around and thinking multiple phases ahead so the colorations are very clear because you need players who could think and chess does exactly the same thing.”

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