England rugby captain Chris Robshaw on Harlequins’ Big Game 7, playing at Twickenham Stadium, his plans for Christmas and where he likes to walk the dog with his girlfriend. Words by Lorraine Crighton-Smith
Chris Robshaw first started playing rugby at the age of seven at Warlingham RFC. He was educated at Cumnor House School, before attending Millfield school, where he captained the rugby team. Chris then joined the Harlequins Academy, before progressing through the ranks to make his senior debut in 2005. He is due to make his 200th senior professional appearance for Harlequins, becoming just the seventh player to do so. Chris has captained England 30 times – and he is the third longest serving England captain behind Will Carling and Martin Johnson.
It’s an exciting time for English rugby. What are you most looking forward to?
The autumn QBE series is so exciting. You look at the four teams coming over to Twickenham and it is the who’s who of world rugby. They’re the teams that every player wants to play against, and it’s great to be back at Twickenham – the best stadium going – in front of 80,000 English fans who really give you that buzz.
The Big Game Seven takes place at Twickenham, what goes through your head running onto the pitch?
I’m just hugely excited. As a player I’ve always wanted to play at Twickenham. With Quins playing both the Big Game and the Double Header there, we’ve probably played there a little bit more than most of the Premiership sides… it really is a second home. [The Big Game] is fantastic, we park at The Stoop and walk over the bridge all together, through the car parks and you see everyone there really enjoying themselves and really getting into that festival atmosphere. With Northampton this year it’s going to be an extremely tough game.
The Big Game is in its seventh year. How have you seen it grow?
The amount of people who come is outstanding. I think the first year there were about 50,000 but now they’re selling out. It’s fantastic for the club, the spectators and for the charities involved. To see a club take a Christmas game to 80,000 [people] and seeing the Quins flags and the Quins shirts in their thousands, it’s just tremendous. It has become part of the Christmas calendar. The party atmosphere has always been there with various acts, whether it’s X-Factor or various dance routines or bands, Hovercrafts… It’s a great family day out and it’s a brilliant day for everyone involved – my family have been every year and really enjoy it. You enjoy some good rugby and great entertainment on the pitch.
You’ve mentioned it’s a Christmas game. Do you get to celebrate?
It’s always tough at Christmas, you have to be quite dedicated and be picky with your decisions, [such as] if you have seconds or not. You have to make sure you monitor yourself. I’ll be at home with the family. We train Christmas Eve in the morning and then we train Boxing Day in the afternoon. You have to make sure that you are on top of it… you’ve got to perform to your best and to make sure you’re as ready as you can be.
Who were the senior players at Harlequins that helped you when you were starting out?
Probably Andre Vos, he was captain here at the time and mentored me a little bit. He recommended I go with his agency and he played a similar position, so he was definitely one. Colin Osborne as well, the Academy coach, there are a couple of guys who are still here who came through our academy year; Mike Brown and George Robson both came through together and Colin was in charge of us, he used to put us through our paces. He still does but I’m sure we used to find him a lot scarier than we do now.
You live in Wandsworth. What attracted you to the area?
I just quite like the area. It is easy to get up to the A3 and down to here [Quins’ training ground in Guildford], it’s relatively close to Twickenham but there’s kind of a villagey feel around here, but you’re on the doorstep of London, which is quite nice. If you want to pop into London, it’s easily accessible on the train or driving. You can escape quite quickly as well.
What do you do in your spare time to unwind?
People do all these crazy things but no, not me. I live quite near Richmond Park, so I like taking the dog for a walk with my girlfriend [singer Camilla Kerslake]. We go to the cinema, to dinner, we go into town every now and then we but nothing too crazy.
You also own a coffee shop in Winchester. How’s business at Black, White, Red?
It’s going well, we’ve been open a year now and we’ve finally ironed out a couple of kinks. We’ve got a mobile unit at The Stoop now too, that’s something new this season that we’ve been quite excited about. It’s been good to have something besides the rugby where I can talk to different people about different business elements and aspects.
Harlequins will take on Northampton Saints at Big Game 7 on Saturday 27 December at Twickenham Stadium. Tickets start from just £15 for adults and can be purchased by visiting quins.co.uk or by calling 020 8410 6000