England captain Chris Robshaw the ‘unluckiest man in Britain and Ireland’
Former England outhalf Stuart Barnes says flanker should have been selected for Lions ahead of Justin Tipuric
England captain Chris Robshaw has not been selected for the Lions tour to Australia. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Harlequins flanker Robshaw was among the most notable absentees from Gatland’s 37-man selection.
Robshaw is particularly unfortunate to miss out having led England with some aplomb during the rebuilding phase that followed a woeful 2011 World Cup. But a victory over the All Blacks and four wins from five in the Six Nations have not been enough.
Barnes believes Robshaw is the “unluckiest man in Britain and Ireland”, and would have taken the ‘Quins forward ahead of Welshman Justin Tipuric.
“Robshaw has had a wonderful season,” Barnes told Sky Sports News, “but he has looked tired since the Wales game, he has looked tired, he has looked like a ghost of his former self. But I think he could do a job at seven, or he could do a job at six.
“But there has been a lot of negative media about him, people have never been certain about Chris Robshaw and I think he is paying the price for that. I personally think Tipuric is a little lucky to go. He is a headline number seven, he does some great things and in time he is going to be wonderful, but is he really that much better than Chris Robshaw over the ball? Does he have that experience?
“I think the answer is no on both of those counts and Robshaw is unlucky to miss out.” He added: “If you ask me who is the unluckiest person in Britain and Ireland, I would say Chris Robshaw.”
Prior to confirmation that Toulon outhalf and World Cup winner with England Jonny Wilkinson ruled himself out of contention, Barnes was agog at what was seemingly an omission by the Gatland.
“We need to know whether Wilkinson is available or not,” Barnes said. “If Wilkinson was available to join the party after the French final — if Toulon get there — then I find it utterly mystifying.
“Jonathan Sexton is going to be the Lions Test flyhalf barring accidents, the next outhalf’s job will be to close out a game and Wilkinson is the best in the world at doing it.
“Yes he has weaknesses but they are the same as Owen Farrell’s and his strengths are stronger that Owen Farrell’s.
“So if Wilkinson was available I find it disappointing, and if it is 1-1 going into the Third Test and the Lions miss out because they cannot drop a goal or kick a 50-metre penalty then this will be the selection we are talking about in years to come.”
Gatland later confirmed: “He wasn’t available. He said he really appreciated the call but that he was committed to Toulon and would not be able to travel with the squad.”
The French Top 14 final takes place on the same day as the Lions play the Barbarians in Hong Kong in their opening game on June 1st and Wilkinson’s Toulon team are likely to be involved. His Toulon team mate Gethin Jenkins did make the Lions squad but he was cleared by the club, for whom he is not first choice.
Asked if he had contacted Wilkinson to include him in the squad, Gatland said: “I wouldn’t have made the call otherwise. But we wanted the whole squad to be able to play in Hong Kong and he couldn’t make that commitment. He said he was struggling with his body and managing things week to week and I think he’d struggle to get through a seven-week tour.”
Gatland added that Wilkinson, who turns 34 next month, could still play a part as a potential injury replacement.