Chris Robshaw and George Chuter’s England rugby team went down fighting in a thrilling 35-28 unofficial rugby Test against the New Zealand Maori in Napier this morning.
Robshaw, who was born in Croydon, and hooker Chuter, who attended Trinity School, were both in England’s starting XV on the final match of what has been judged to be a successful tour.
Afterwards, Robshaw was singled out by England coach Martin Johnson as having impressed on tour. But England’s new star still had time to send a message to his first rugby club, Warlingham, who play at Hamsey Green off the Limpsfield Road.
“I was lucky to start at a very good club at a young age, learning my rugby in the Warlingham minis,” Robshaw said in an interview conducted for Inside Croydon. “I send the club my best wishes and hope they keep moving forward.”
In today’s game, England’s captain Robshaw, 24, led his side by example, and England were 28-17 ahead at half-time after some outstanding play in a match specially staged to celebrate 100 years of Maori rugby.
“It was very close. From our point of view, we were probably not good enough,” Robshaw said. “We came here to win tonight, and the guys stood up tonight and gave it their best efforts, but credit to the Maoris.”
The disappointment at defeat was echoed by the England coach, Martin Johnson, “There were so many good things on the tour, player-wise, team-wise, it was a bit annoying today not to finish it off.”
Johnson’s comments hint that some emerging England players, such as the Harlequins flanker Robshaw, had put down firm markers for consideration for the squad for next year’s rugby World Cup.
“Overall, in terms of players coming through and the effect it’ll have on the team, it’s been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “Some guys have really put themselves in contention for the bigger squad.
“Chris has captained the side twice and done really well.”
But Robshaw is not taking anything for granted. “We’re take it one step at a time, and see where we are next year,” he told Inside Croydon.
“It’s been a huge honour… to be involved in this southern tour squad and to be captain in a couple of the game with the calibre of players we have has been a huge honour. I’m just glad I’m part of it.”
Robshaw was asked what it felt like when he was told he would lead the England XV for the first time in the earlier tour match against the Australian Barbarians. “I was pretty nervous the day before,” he said, “when Johnno actually said it to me, ‘Do you want to captain the team?’ I was pretty taken aback by it.
“To lead out the England team in those games is such a privilege and an honour, but once you get out there, you just get on with the job you’ve got to do.”
Robshaw is just the latest product of Croydon rugby to emerge at the top level of the game, along with the likes of Danny Cipriani, Paul Sackey, Chuter and Scotland international Kyle Traynor.
“My parents took me down to Warlingham rugby club, it was there and at Cumnor House school where I learned the basic skills of the game, how to play and where my enjoyment of the game started,” Robshaw said.
“I remember playing Minis, and I still have a little Minis runner-up trophy at home still from the under-8s, so I guess I must have started when I was aged 6 or 7.
“I’d been into all sports since I was little, be it football, rugby, golf, but I guess I was best suited to rugby.”
With thanks to Rich Prescott of the RFU for his help.