Dan Robson making a strong case for England recall after shining in Wasps' post-lockdown boom

Ben Coles
·4-min read
Dan Robson scoring for Wasps - Dan Robson making a strong case for England recall after shining in Wasps' post-lockdown boom - GETTY IMAGES
Dan Robson scoring for Wasps - Dan Robson making a strong case for England recall after shining in Wasps' post-lockdown boom - GETTY IMAGES

You would understand if Dan Robson avoided watching last year's Rugby World Cup. Just as it appeared as though Robson had cracked his way into the England set-up with appearances off the bench against France and Italy in the 2019 Six Nations, he missed the chaotic 38-38 draw with Scotland the following week with what was billed at the time as an illness.

It turned out to be far more serious. Robson was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis, ruling him out for six months and scuppering his chances of travelling to Japan, despite being named in Eddie Jones' preliminary 38-man squad. Such can be the cruelty of sport.

All credit to Robson for therefore bouncing back from a medical issue that might have derailed his career. The scrum-half's form had notably picked up before the lockdown but since the restart he has been extraordinary, helping Wasps reach the Gallagher Premiership final, with Ben Spencer for company as the best No 9s in the country at the moment.

"He is in the form of his life," Jimmy Gopperth, the Wasps veteran, said after the Premiership semi-final win over Bristol Bears. "He is running the show. In everything good, Dan’s got some part in it. His confidence is through the roof. He is playing brilliantly. I am so happy for him. In the England squad, he needs to be right up there and starting in my book, because he’s been brilliant."

Robson was certainly at the heart of Wasps' excellent moments against Bristol. It was Robson's clever chip with the outside of his boot that gave an injured Malakai Fekitoa enough time and space to regather and score the game's opening try, setting the tone for the afternoon. And while there was little doubt in the end that Wasps would win, it was Robson who put the matter to bed with a quick-tap try in the corner that seemed to catch even the referee, Matthew Carley, off guard.

Amongst English scrum-halves in the Premiership this season, Robson tops the charts for the number of try involvements per 80 minutes, scoring seven tries and also producing 13 assists, making him the only player with an average ratio higher than one try involvement per game. In Wasps' high-octane attack, which has kicked on since Lee Blackett took over as head coach, Robson has thrived.

English scrum-halves in the Premiership
English scrum-halves in the Premiership

Matt Dawson, the former Wasps and England scrum-half, tells Telegraph Sport: "Dan has been in good form for a good few years, I wouldn’t necessarily say just this year. The Wasps way has suited him, that fast pace. The team facilitates the way he likes to break as well, to be a threat. There are not many scrum-halves around who can tick that box at the moment.

"It's the way he injects not only a physical pace on the game but a mental pace, the way the opposition have to just pause and wonder what Robson is doing, before they wonder what [Jacob] Umaga or Fekitoa are doing. You take your eye off him and you are in trouble. It’s good to see that type of scrum-half play is still effective."

Spencer's performances, surprisingly, were not enough to earn an England recall this week, despite his sharp game management appearing to suit Test rugby and England. Perhaps Robson, once Wasps' season concludes after next weekend, will manage to find a way back in.

"It’s difficult to second guess anything that Eddie is doing, but it very much looks as though he wants a No 9 who is going to focus more on the man management side, which means the focus is not on the No 9 to be a threat," explains Dawson. "That became apparent with Danny Care not being a starter. But it would be nice to see whether scrum-halves like Dan Robson or Ben Spencer can do both - the parts that Ben Youngs does brilliantly while bringing a little bit more exuberance to the game.

"A lot depends on how Eddie wants England to play. They play a lot through the fly-half rather than off the scrum-half, which means the scrum-half has to be managing that scenario and getting to every ruck. It’s not necessarily about quick-tapped penalties and sniping around the base, hitting the short side. That hasn’t seemed to be England’s way of playing. But I would still like to see the odd opportunity for other scrum-halves, to see if they can manage the game while bringing a new dimension."

Should Robson help Wasps to a first Premiership title since 2008, he may well get that chance with England again.