Chris Robshaw had seen it coming over the past month, but today the Harlequins and England captain had it confirmed: not only would the former Warlingham junior player not be captaining the British Lions on their tour to Australia, but he did not even make it into the 37-man squad.
The back-row forwards department is one of the strongest available to head coach Warren Gatland, and he opted to go with Wales’s captain, Sam Warburton.
With New Zealander Gatland having already forged a highly successful partnership with Warburton and the Wales team, it was perhaps an obvious choice.
Yet until barely a month ago, Robshaw looked to be a shoo-in, not just for his first Lions flanker jersey, but also for the captaincy. Robshaw had led England to a stunning victory over the world champion All Blacks last November, and four victories in the Home Nations championship had seen him take England to the brink of a Grand Slam.
But then came that game at Cardiff, where Wales overwhelmed Robshaw’s England.
“Robshaw’s had a wonderful season,” Stuart Barnes, the former England player who now commentates for Sky Sports and writes on the game for the Sunday Times. “But there’s been a lot of media saying he should not go, saying he isn’t good enough to go, and the coaching staff are only human and must have been influenced by that.
“Chris Robshaw has got to be the unluckiest man in the British Isles right now,” Barnes said.
In fact, there is not a single member of Harlequins in the Lions squad – an extraordinary snub for the 2012 English club champions.
Nor is Robshaw the only noteworthy Englishman missing from the squad for the seven-week tour. Ten years on from the day he kicked the drop goal to win the World Cup for England against Australia in Sydney, Jonny Wilkinson, too, has been told he is surplus to requirements, despite his magnificent recent club form for Toulon.
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- Chris Robshaw in danger of missing Lions selection (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sam Warburton expected to be confirmed as Lions captain (walesonline.co.uk)
- Warburton tipped for captain’s role (standard.co.uk)