sport

Robshaw admits criticism hurt him

England skipper Chris Robshaw admits the intense criticism of his decision making during the autumn took an emotional toll.

Robshaw had been viewed as a fine captain until two major calls against Australia and South Africa - both over whether to use a penalty to kick for goal - resulted in his leadership credentials being questioned.

New Zealand even mocked his refusal to go for the match-winning try against the Springboks in the build up to their showdown at Twickenham on December 1.

But the condemnation was swept away when the All Blacks were routed 38-21 in record-breaking fashion with Robshaw, who is almost certain to be retained as captain for the RBS 6 Nations, praised for his role.

The experience left its mark on the 26-year-old Harlequins openside, however, and it was the comforting words of his England team-mates that lifted his spirits.

"Beating New Zealand like that was definitely satisfying for me, it's always nice to finish on something special," he said.

"When you're younger - or even now - you read about international captains of whatever sport in the media, for good or bad reasons.

"The previous year we as a team and myself had enjoyed a lot of good press.

"It was my first time experiencing the other side. It did hit us, you try not to read it, but you do know what's out there and what's being said.

"The day after South Africa I went into camp and my head was a bit down. I went home for the weekend to try and get away. I was a bit down and moping about.

"That night the boys spoke to me and said, 'Don't worry, we're going to win this weekend and it will be fine'.

"It really made me appreciate the character of the guys we have in the England squad at the moment.

"You always appreciate your team-mates, but it was something pretty special for them to say stuff like that."

Dismantling the world champions ensured England enjoyed a rousing conclusion to an otherwise disappointing autumn.

On the strength of that performance they have been installed as second favourites to win the Six Nations behind France and Robshaw believes they must maintain the high standards they set last month.

"New Zealand is the benchmark of where we want to be as a team. It's where we strive to be," he said

"We believed we could beat them. When you've been kicked down and written off and this and that and has been said about you, it makes you closer together.

"It bonds you and puts your backs against the wall. You want to prove people wrong.

"At the debrief the next day everyone was sad because we didn't have another game the following weekend because of the momentum we had.

"But the win against New Zealand has gone, now it's about the Six Nations.

"We're a relatively young squad and are starting to get that bit more experience.

"We've played the majority of the best teams in the world now and can take experience and confidence from every game, win or lose."

England open the second Six Nations of coach Stuart Lancaster's reign against Scotland on Saturday week and Robshaw accepts they are no longer an unknown quantity.

"Last season we were a new squad, new coaches and no one knew what to expect from us," he said.

"Now we have a bit more experience and everyone knows what a Six Nations involves.

"There might become a bit more pressure because of the autumn, but it's about dealing with that.

"It's a different type of situation that everyone's very excited about. It's about backing up what we did last year."