FORMER Hampshire schoolboy Mike Brown says England colleague Chris Robshaw's outstanding leadership ability was evident when they progressed through the ranks at Harlequins.
Robshaw's stock as a Test captain has risen further with his man of the match performance in Sunday's stormy 12-6 RBS 6 Nations victory over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.
The 26-year-old openside became favourite to skipper the Lions' summer tour to Australia after carrying the fight to Ireland amid a display of remarkable maturity and composure from England.
Brown, who attended Winchester’s Peter Symonds College, holds his Harlequins team-mate in high esteem and has revealed his reputation was established among his peers many years ago.
"Chris has stayed the same person, even with the captaincy. He still works hard and is a brilliant leader and does for England exactly what he does for Quins," the full-back turned wing said.
"It's great to have a leader like that who sets the example and you follow. When he needs to say something he will. He's a great bloke as well - I've known him since I was 18.
"When we were in the academy we were asked who would we pick as a future captain and we all chose Chris. Now he's England captain.
"He was exactly the same then as he is now - he leads by example and works so hard on and off the field. He's a great character and always has a smile on his face.
"When he says something you listen and that's something he's had throughout his rugby career.
"It shows the type of bloke he is that he can step up and lead the team after just one cap. He's a world class player and he's shown that recently."
England are the only team still capable of winning the Grand Slam, but must beat France, Italy and Wales to seize a prize they last claimed under Sir Clive Woodward in 2003.
Their next hurdle is fraught with danger as Les Bleus, who visit Twickenham on February 23, have been dire during their defeats to Italy and Wales, setting the scene for a typically logic-defying French revival.
"France haven't had the best of starts, but they're a brilliant team who on their day can beat anyone in the world," said Brown, who studied at Wyvern College in Salisbury prior to moving to Peter Symonds.
"Look at how many times they've beaten New Zealand when everyone's written them off, so they'll be a tough, tough test.
"They have brilliant players throughout their squad and will be a wounded animal, which makes them very dangerous.
"But the boys are looking forward to it and hopefully we can do a job. It will be a massive test."
Brown was speaking at the launch of the biggest ever campaign to get England playing Touch Rugby, unveiled by O2 and the Rugby Football Union in east London today.
Strictly Come Dancing's Flavia Cacace and Brown's fellow England players Brad Barritt and Alex Goode attended the initiative at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.
Broadening the reach and appeal of rugby through touch is one of the key focus areas for the RFU to create a lasting legacy for the sport in the build up to and beyond the 2015 World Cup.