Rival coaches trumpet fit-again Robshaw's Lions claims
REACTION: Warren Gatland will be a "brave man" to ignore Chris Robshaw's claims to a British and Irish Lions spot, said Harlequins coach John Kingston after the former England captain's impressive return to club duty.
Robshaw, England's first-choice blindside flank when fit, missed the team's entire successful Six Nations title defence with a shoulder injury.
But the 55-times capped loose forward returned to action on Saturday as Harlequins beat Newcastle 53-17 at the Twickenham Stoop for the London club's biggest English Premiership win of the season.
Lions coach Gatland is due name his squad for the three-Test tour of his native New Zealand on April 19.
That doesn't leave Robshaw, 30, much time to press his case but, in his favour, he should be that much fresher for a gruelling tour than all his rival back-rows who played in the Six Nations.
"For me the biggest thing today was about reintegrating the group back together from the injuries and the internationals," said Kingston, who had several England players available again after the Six Nations champions' bid for back-to-back Grand Slams ended with a 13-9 defeat by Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
"It's a brave man who discounts Chris Robshaw from the Lions I would suggest," said Kingston.
"His ability to come back today after four months out and put in a performance like that over 80 minutes is a reflection of the guy.
"Chris gets better the longer he plays - he just keeps going and going."
Newcastle boss Dean Richards, a former Harlequins coach, endorsed Robshaw's Lions claims.
"Chris Robshaw's an outstanding player and he's got huge leadership potential," said Richards, himself a former England and Lions No.8.
"He's equally as good as anyone the Lions will come up against in New Zealand - I would have him in my team every day."
Elsewhere on Saturday, Leicester edged out arch-rivals Northampton 36-31 in an East Midlands derby to give outgoing coach Aaron Mauger an ideal send-off.
The former New Zealand centre found out this week he would be replaced as the Tigers' head coach, with Australian Matt O'Connor returning for a second spell at Welford Road.
That made Saturday's game at Northampton the last of Mauger's current spell with Leicester.
He looked like leaving on a losing note, with the Saints' Nafi Tuitavake, Ahsee Tuala and Louis Picamoles all scoring first-half tries at Franklin's Gardens.
But the visitors hit back after the break, with England scrum-half Ben Youngs and Lachlan McCaffrey both crossing to add to Adam Thompstone's try in the opening 40 minutes.
Owen Williams kicked two late penalties to ensure Mauger bowed out with a win as Leicester maintained their bid for a 13th consecutive top-four finish that would guarantee them a spot in the title-deciding play-offs.
"It's obviously an emotional day for 'Mauge' and I thought he handled it really well," said Tigers coach Geordan Murphy.
"He didn't want the decision to affect the performance in the week and he did a great job in setting the team up to come to Franklin's Gardens," the former Leicester and Ireland fullback added.
Saturday's other Premiership match saw Exeter overturn a 19-5 deficit to beat Sale 30-25 in a bonus-point win that saw them go level on points with leaders Wasps, who play Worcester on Sunday.
Reigning Premiership and European champions Saracens, currently third, are also in action on Sunday, with the north London club at home to Bath.