Chris Robshaw has warned that English rugby’s latest civil war could drive a host of top talent overseas.
The former England captain will swap boyhood club Harlequins for San Diego Legion in January, taking up a two-year adventure in Major League Rugby.
Premiership Rugby, club bosses and players are all at loggerheads amid a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
And Robshaw admitted the coronavirus fallout could see increasing numbers of frontline stars looking to head abroad.
Asked if more English players could start heading overseas, the 34-year-old said: “I definitely think that will open everything up.
“Of course, for me, England was a massive pull. I wanted to play for my country so I wanted to stay here and play for as long as I could for England.
“Since not being involved, that has made looking elsewhere and having another life experience a bit easier.
“I’m pretty pleased I’m going Stateside that’s all I can say!” said Robshaw.
“I’m one of the lucky ones, there’s a lot of people at clubs who won’t get the chance to wear their club shirts again.
🚨 Player signing: International superstar and former England national rugby team captain, Chris Robshaw, will join us for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Welcome Chris to the San Diego Legion! – More details: https://t.co/4WtaehyKhX pic.twitter.com/z8hvYYryme
— San Diego Legion (@SDLegion) June 17, 2020
“Because my season where I’m going next won’t start until January that gives me a window.
“But of course if I’d gone to France or Japan I might not have had that little bit of closure.
“Even though there won’t be crowds there, it’s allowing me that chance to finish that chapter of my life.”
Global rugby stands at yet another crossroads, just 25 years into the sport’s professional life span.
The world game is closer than ever to an aligned global calendar, with summer rugby again on the agenda for the northern hemisphere.
— England Rugby (at 🏠) (@EnglandRugby) June 17, 2020
While shifting the English season continues to polarise opinion even in the corridors of power, Robshaw believes it is now or never when it comes to a bold shift.
“In terms of summer rugby, I think we played 90 per cent of our games this year in the rain, which was wet and not particularly nice,” said Robshaw.
“I think if they are ever going to try stuff, they have got a window to try stuff now. If not, we’ll stick and continue with the current model.
“From what I hear from grass-roots clubs, it’s more about that level, in terms of do they have the facilities to water the pitches?
“Is there a health and safety issue, with kids running around on hard pitches?
“Of course, in the Premiership and Championship, pitches can be watered and looked after, so they will be okay, but is there a knock-on effect?
“As I said, if they are ever going to do it, they have a good opportunity to do it now.”
— Chris Robshaw (@ChrisRobshaw) June 17, 2020
Robshaw has spent some 16 years at Quins, leading the London club to the Premiership title in 2012.
The combative back-row forward captained England 43 times, and will head to California next year with plenty of childhood dreams fulfilled.
“I’m born and raised in London, it’s all I’ve ever known and I’ve only ever played for Harlequins,” said Robshaw.
“And I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll come back this way. But while I can have the opportunity and while rugby can allow us that vehicle to try something new, why not?
“Finance hasn’t come into it, I’ve never made decisions in my career based on money. I wanted to try a new league, it’s new, it’s raw, there’s a bit of excitement to the unknown quantity.
“And it’s a completely different lifestyle. If I was going to leave one of the best cities in the world, southern California isn’t a bad place to go and live.
“I’ve been told to get the surfboard ready, so it will be a little different from Wandsworth, and the hustle and bustle of the tube.”