Chris Robshaw has warned Harlequins to expect a target to be on their back this season as Stephan Lewies bids to join Geordan Murphy and Brad Barritt as two captains who led their teams to back-to-back Premiership trophies.
Robshaw, who skippered Quins to their maiden title in 2012, was involved in the process to select his successor once he had confirmed his departure to Major League Rugby after 15 seasons at the Stoop.
There was no stopping Harlequins, revitalised after the departure of Paul Gustard in January following a run of two wins in their first six games, winning the next 11 of 16 matches.
Danny Care and Dombrandt both noted the rediscovery of the ‘Harlequins identity’ as a the underlying reason behind the team’s upshoot to the final at Twickenham, and Robshaw believes the new ideas of Lewies played their role.
“Myself and Guzzy had conversations and would talk regularly about it,” Robshaw told TRP. “There were a number of people who could have taken the captaincy on and if you spoke to Guzzy he would say he was keen to go down a different route; someone who could bring in new ideas and lead the organisation.
“Loyalty is great when you see players come through at clubs to become captaincy candidates, but you can see in America things done differently to how they are in England. Those moments make you think to yourself ‘oh, why didn’t I do that?’
“With Stephan coming in and taking over the mantle, he has put his own spin on it. As a player, he has been phenomenal when he has be able to play. He is a tough guy like most South Africans tend to be and they needed that at times last season.
“They struggled a lot at Christmas time and then went on this unbelievable run and went under the radar. Nobody really knew what to expect. Now they are turning up as champions and people will want to knock them off their pedestal.”
Ever-present during his time at the Stoop, the loss of Robshaw was eased by the ruck dominance of Will Evans prior to the flanker seeing his season ended by a broken leg. And yet, academy graduate Jack Kenningham then stepped up to the task.
“There is a good bunch of the young lads coming through in the pack and these things just happen periodically,” Robshaw said. “I often find you get the backs break onto the stage a little bit early, while the forwards have a bit more to do in maybe filling out and getting some more street smarts.
“This group are all of a similar age and I think Adam Jones and Jerry will be fantastic for them.
“I remember Jack Kenningham was at university while training with us and split his time there. We did this game in pre-season, these fitness games, and I was teamed up with him. He was so hard to get near for me, I couldn’t get a finger on him and when he got the ball it was very hard to get it off him.”
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