England legend Jason Leonard has backed Martin Corry’s no-nonsense approach to bring him success as an international captain.
Corry has been named as captain by England coach Andy Robinson for this Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy, in place of the injured Jason Robinson.
The 31-year-old back row forward has been in outstanding form for England in recent internationals and has been the shining light in an otherwise disappointing campaign, pushing his claims for a place on this summer’s Lions tour.
Leonard – the most highly capped player in rugby history – believes the Leicester Tigers number eight will command the respect of his team-mates and opponents alike.
"Martin Corry is a well respected player and a hard man," said Leonard.
"He’s never given anything less than 100% and that’s why he’s so highly respected by players and opponents alike.
"Along with Josh Lewsey, he’s been one of the outstanding performers for England in this year’s RBS 6 Nations, and that alone justifies his selection as captain."
The former England and British & Irish Lions prop would not be surprised if Corry – who has only commanded a regular place in the England starting line-up since the retirement of Lawrence Dallaglio – grabbed the chance to captain his country with both hands.
"He’s always taken his chances," said Leonard. "And people have to remember that he went out on the British Lions tour to Australia in 2001 as a replacement (for Scotland’s Simon Taylor) and played outstandingly well in all three Tests.’
Leonard is confident England will be able to overcome the loss of captain Robinson, who tore ligaments in his thumb during England’s Lansdowne Road defeat to Ireland.
Robinson has come in for some criticism for his performances in this year’s tournament, although that has been more down to the high standards he has set himself during his time in the union game than for any genuinely poor play.
Leonard believes any criticism of Robinson has been wide of the mark.
"Robbo has had the feeling all year that people have been looking to contain him and make sure England don’t get the best out of him," said Leonard.
"To say that he’s been out of form is not fair because in all the games he’s played he’s still done something that nobody else in the world would have been capable of doing."
Leonard, who won a world record 114 caps, is confident England will win their final two Six Nations fixtures against Italy and Scotland, although he does not necessarily think it will be through expansive, flowing rugby – despite the
selection of Iain Balshaw at full-back.
"The next two games will give England the chance to put the record straight," said Leonard.
"They will be expected to win, and win well, but the players will not be worried about the scoreline.
"The players will be looking to win to salvage some pride and regain some respect from the rest of the rugby world."