Sean O'Brien and Chris Robshaw agree on rugby's hardest hitter 4 years ago

Sean O'Brien and Chris Robshaw agree on rugby's hardest hitter

Both men felt the heat. Both men will never forget it.

Rugby's toughest tackler. It's a question we often pose to our interviewees and one that invariably causes players to glance off into the middle distance as they recall the moment their body surely rues.


We asked Sean O'Brien if he could tell us the one man that well and truly rattled his cage. He said:

"Yer man, Jacques Burger, the lad at Saracens. That [Heineken Cup] game over there, in 2010. It was off a five-man lineout and Johnny Sexton just said, 'Crash this up.' I did but I ran into him.

"I remember thinking that every bit of air had come out of me. I went up and went on but I wasn't going too far. That's probably the biggest hit I've ever had. We met in the middle and the two of us fell down on the ground."

Jacques Burger loved nothing more than laying every ounce of himself into opponents and letting them know he was about. He wasn't giving you a bloody inch. Robshaw tells us:

"Jacques was always a very tough competitor. He was very fierce and committed. You always knew you would get a tough time from him. He tackled and carried hard; gave it everything."


As for the player to leave the biggest, bruising impression on him, Robshaw names a certain, infamous Frenchman:

"We played Sale Sharks wen I was about 20 years old. Out outhalf put up a kick that was caught by Sebastien Chabal in his 22m. He took it and had a clear 20-metre run before he got to me. He ran straight through, and over, me. I told the outhalf to kick it the other way - away from me - next time."

Sebastien Chabal 7/9/2007


Chabal has long hung up his boots and Burger retired at the end of the 2015/16 season but rugby life goes on for O'Brien and Robshaw. The former England captain is flourishing at blindside since his side's disastrous World Cup exit in October 2015. He is no longer the captain, or at openside, but both decisions have worked out for the best.

"We didn't become a bad team overnight," Robshaw says. "We had a poor run of games and we owned up to that but we always believed we were a decent side with good players."

"The new position has never been much of an issue for me," he adds. "It was something that was questioned more in the outside world. As long as I am performing well in my role and have the respect of my teammates and coaches, I'm happy.

"Rugby is a team sport. We need everyone doing their role. That is whether you are hitting a ruck, running a dummy, chasing a kick or dotting down in the corner."

England will not play world number one New Zealand until November of this year - a four-year gap between Tests - but Robshaw would love a true test of where his side stand.


"As a player, you want to be challenging yourself against the best. I would love to play New Zealand but we can't be worrying about things we can't influence."