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Lions? No, Chris Robshaw focus is on ending Springboks hoodoo

Chris RobshawChris Robshaw is determined to bury his South Africa hoodoo and boost his chances of appearing on next summer’s Lions tour to New Zealand.

Robshaw has bounced back brilliantly from the low point of last year’s World Cup debacle to become a key performer for England under new boss Eddie Jones.

Nine straight wins under Jones have propelled England to second in the world rankings and they are expected to hammer the Springboks, who are in disarray and facing further coaching upheaval after a hugely disappointing Rugby Championship.

However, England have failed to defeat South Africa in 12 attempts – a miserable sequence that stretches back a decade to their last victory at Twickenham in November 2006 – and Robshaw warns nothing can, or will, be taken for granted.

Having lost four times to the Rainbow Nation, Robshaw told The Rugby Paper: “Whenever we’re playing South Africa they always raise their game.

“They’re always a very physical side with talented players. Things didn’t go well for them in the Rugby Championship but whenever they’ve come to Twickenham it’s been a huge battle and I expect no different.

“I’ve experienced it a couple of times against them at home so we’re going to have to be on our mettle to beat them.”

He added: “This is very big autumn for England. We’ve had a couple of camps now and we’re not looking any further than the South Africa game.

“Myself and all the other guys in the squad have never beaten South Africa so achieving that will be a big thing. We’ve got guys who are hungry and want to move forward from last season now – and I’m certainly one of them.

“We’re saying to ourselves, ‘okay, we’ve set our benchmark, how do we accelerate and go again, and go again after that?’ What we did last season was nice, but you always want to improve and this is our next big test.”

Jones has been under fire following a recent squad gathering that included judo and full-on training sessions which left Anthony Watson, Sam Jones and Jack Nowell nursing injuries that rule them out of November’s series.

However, Robshaw counters: “Injuries are unfortunate but whenever we’ve gone into camp we’ve trained intensively – it’s how games are won. You need to be in the best shape and as sharp as possible.

“We’ve all done wrestling and grappling with our clubs before and working on different skills, like judo, and with different coaches keeps you fresh and excited.

“You work with different players, see what other guys are doing around the country – what weights, passing or breakdown drills are they doing – and by working together you learn little tricks, which is important to you as a team.

“I’m very proud to have played in most games under Eddie and enjoy working with him. He works us pretty hard but he always wants us to improve and get better. He lets us know our targets and is always very honest there.”

Robshaw, 30, missed out on Lions selection in 2013 but wants to make amends.

He said: “It’s a long way away still but of course the Lions is an ambition and every player wants to be on that plane to New Zealand for that tour come the end of the season.

“It’s six or seven months until that squad is named and there’s a lot of rugby to be played, so all my focus will be on Harlequins and England and we’ll see what happens.”

Harlequins are clicking through the gears after a slow start, with Robshaw adding: “Over the last couple of years we’ve slipped down the league, but we’re trying to evolve, trying to move our game forward and it takes time.

“We took a hiding at Wasps but bounced back strongly against Northampton and Stade Francais and if you look at the development of our front row in particular, they’ve come on leaps and bounds and our set-piece is strong.

“That side of our game – maul and scrum – is excellent and if we can get our attack right, hopefully, we can win more silverware.”

NEALE HARVEY

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