England captain Chris Robshaw admitted he’d been laid low by the flak he encountered after some questionable decision-making during the 2012 end-of-year internationals.
Robshaw’s leadership qualities came under severe scrutiny following England’s losses at home to Australia and South Africa in November.
He was criticised for running kickable penalties against the Wallabies and then, with time running out the following week against the Springboks, his decision to tell Owen Farrell to go for goal with England four points behind and needing the five that would come from a try for victory.
Farrell landed the kick but time ran out and England lost 16-15.
However, England then ended the year on a colossal high when they returned to Twickenham the following week and, against all predictions, beat world champions New Zealand by a record 38-21.
It was just what Harlequins flanker Robshaw, who captained the London club to the Premiership title last season, needed after a rocky few weeks.
“Beating New Zealand like that was definitely satisfying for me. It’s always nice to finish on something special,” the 26-year-old openside said on Monday as he was confirmed as England captain by coach Stuart Lancaster for the Six Nations.
“The previous year, we as a team and myself had enjoyed a lot of good press.
“It was my first time experiencing the other side.
“The day after South Africa, I went into camp and my head was a bit down. I went home for the weekend to try and get away. I was a bit down and moping about.
“That night, the boys spoke to me and said, ‘Don’t worry – we’re going to win this weekend and it will be fine’.
“It really made me appreciate the character of the guys we have in the England squad at the moment.”
England, runners-up in last season’s Six Nations, head into their 2013 opener at home to Scotland on February 2 as one of the favourites for the tournament with France, the other major European side who impressed during the autumn Test series.
And Robshaw said it was vital England maintained the standards they had set for themselves against the All Blacks.
“New Zealand is the benchmark of where we want to be as a team. It’s where we strive to be,” he said.
“We believed we could beat them. When you’ve been kicked down and written off, and this and that and has been said about you, it makes you closer together.
“It bonds you and puts your backs against the wall. You want to prove people wrong.
“But the win against New Zealand has gone. Now it’s about the Six Nations.”
England are no longer an unknown quantity and Robshaw accepts they will face increased expectations as a result of their win over the All Blacks.
“There might become a bit more pressure because of the autumn, but it’s about dealing with that.
“It’s a different type of situation that everyone’s very excited about. It’s about backing up what we did last year.”