Lancaster keeps captaincy options open

PA Sport
Chris Robshaw impressed as captain in the RBS 6 Nations
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Chris Robshaw impressed as captain in the RBS 6 Nations

Chris Robshaw is not guaranteed to be England captain for the QBE autumn internationals, head coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed.

Lancaster has decided to delay any decision over the captaincy until his squad arrive in camp at the end of October to begin preparations for the four-Test series. England open their autumn campaign against Fiji on November 10 before tackling Australia, South Africa and world champions New Zealand on successive Saturdays at Twickenham.

"We haven't decided on the captain yet," Lancaster said. "We'll sit down when we meet in camp, we'll look at who's available, form and fitness obviously. Clearly Chris has done a fantastic job. There's no reason why he wouldn't be strongly considered for the autumn."

Fitness permitting, Robshaw will be in a strong position to retain the captaincy after playing an integral role in establishing a new era for the England team following the 2011 World Cup debacle.

Robshaw's leadership through the RBS 6 Nations - including a landmark win over France in Paris - and the summer tour has seen him touted by Warren Gatland as a potential British and Irish Lions captain.

Lancaster was also impressed with the way Dylan Hartley captained England to a 14-14 draw with South Africa in Port Elizabeth, when Robshaw was absent with a broken thumb.

England also have Tom Wood back in the frame. The Northampton flanker had been Robshaw's main rival for the England captaincy before he was sidelined by a foot injury in January.

Lancaster subscribes to the theory that the team must be selected before the captain and he has worked hard to develop a senior leadership group to run the team.

That leadership group has lost Ben Foden for the autumn campaign after the Northampton full-back underwent ankle ligament surgery, but it features the likes of Hartley, Toby Flood, Phil Dowson and Ben Youngs.

"I wouldn't say the captaincy is overplayed, being England captain is a big job obviously, but a strong leadership group surrounding the captain is equally important," Lancaster said.

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