Jason Robinson Remembers...

Jason Robinson Remembers... widnesvikings.co.uk

20th April 2018

One of the greatest modern players to grace either code, Jason Robinson, will be visiting the Halton Stadium this May. ‘An Evening with Jason Robinson’ will see the legendary winger share the story of his glittering career with his former teammate and Sky Sports presenter, Terry O’Connor – from his phenomenal trophy haul for Wigan Warriors, through to the unforgettable glory of the 2003 Rugby Union World Cup victory.

Ahead of the special event on the evening of 31st May, Robinson speaks exclusively to the Vikings Media Team to share the highlights of his career.

Humble Beginnings

Had it not been for the intervention of a dedicated teacher, supporters might have missed out on witnessing one of the most gifted players of his generation.

“I didn't come from a rugby family at all. There was a school teacher who had a passion for starting a team up at middle school, and he encouraged me to get involved. I remember we struggled to get 13 players together and we were getting beat 80-0.

“Sometimes you’d think ‘should I do it?’, but I persisted with it. I joined an amateur club and got better from there. I just took to the game - I always had fast feet and people struggled to catch me.”

Robinson began his League career with Hunslet Hawks, before earning his big break aged just 19 with a move to Wigan Warriors. At such a tender age, he was thrust into the spotlight - appearing in a Regal Trophy final in his inaugural season.

“Joining Wigan was the ultimate, really. Wigan, at that time, were streets ahead of everybody else. You knew that if you didn't perform, you wouldn’t get picked. That gave me the foundation to go on and do some amazing things.

“Wigan were driving things forward. They were setting the benchmark with the Challenge Cup and the number of internationals they put into every test team. With a team like that, you were expected to win. That brought pressure which we knew we had to embrace. It was just the Wigan way."

Making a Change 

Robinson had his most prolific season with the Warriors in 1996, scoring 26 tries in 25 appearances. Throughout his eight years in League, he won a Super League crown, three Challenge Cups and a World Club Championship. Naturally, as a standout outside back of his generation, Jason had the opportunity to ply his skills in the elite levels of the NRL.

 “I signed a contract in 1995 to go out to Australia in 1997, when the NRL – Super League war was on. Playing in the NRL is a tough, tough challenge and I was looking forward to it. But my circumstances changes and I reflected - 'no I don't want to be away anymore, I want to stay for family'. “

Jason had the chance to test the water of Rugby Union, featuring in the famous 1996 ‘Clash of the Codes’ contest that pitted Wigan Warriors against Bath, and spent the final part of the season at Bath, following the move to summer rugby. In 2000, Robinson ultimately chose to convert codes.

 “I was coming out of my contract at Wigan and I had a phone call from Clive Woodward, he said ‘we've got a World Cup coming up in three years' time and we want you to be a part of it’. I thought that it was now or never.

“Because of the success I had in Wigan, I thought ‘I’ve done so much in Rugby League, maybe now is the time to do it’ (convert codes).  I made the call and I never looked back. I went on to do some amazing things in a game I knew very little about."

Code Breaker

Robinson’s move to Sale Sharks was confirmed in 2000. He was an instant hit, making both the England squad and the British and Irish Lions tour. Robinson puts his immediate success down to following his instincts.

“It was a case of 'let's see what I can pick up'. I think that if your attitude's right and you just want to learn, then you'll learn. You never know from one season to the next whether you'll be able to do it in Rugby League, never mind moving to Rugby Union. But that's what sport's about, moving out of your comfort zone.

 “I didn't anticipate that I would progress as quickly as I did, in terms of getting into the England team after three months and going on a Lions tour. Things were going really well, and I still didn't know the ins- and-outs of the game, but one thing I knew - because of my League career - was how to beat people. You put somebody in front of me and I always believed I could beat them.

 “As a result it set me apart from your typical wingers and fullbacks in rugby union, They had been trained to do certain things in certain positions, whereas with me, it was 'kick me the ball, I'm just going to run', or 'I can run it further than I can kick it', so let's have a challenge.’”

Robinson was flourishing in his new challenge, but he was yet to face the biggest test of his career to date: helping England navigate a World Cup campaign. The outside back, who earned a World Cup winners medal with the Roses in 2003, highlighted England boss Clive Woodward as an important influence in guiding the team to glory.

“He was somebody who put a system in for the England team to be the best they could be. We had the best coaches and we looked at every area of getting better. Clive challenged the system, he got the funding and made sure that we didn't have any excuses. As a result, we went into that 2003 World Cup as favourites, and England don't go into any World Cup as favourites in any sport.

“For us to go in there to win would be a huge thing and an aim we wanted to deliver on. I played against Australia in a World Cup in 1995 in Rugby League and whilst we beat them in the pool stages, we lost out in the final.

So to get to another final but this time in Rugby Union against Australia, in Australia, was something I was looking to succeed in. Australia are always a great team and we managed to win that game. I've played in some big games, but that one was by far the biggest, the most pressure I've felt as a player, especially because I'd only been in the game for three years as well.

“There we are in Australia and you know the stick you get from the Australian media. I was coming up against guys like Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers, who I’d played against in Rugby League. So it was a real challenge and thankfully we won it. To be a World Cup winner was an amazing feeling, but we had no idea how much it would mean to supporters back home."

A True Great

Robinson’s stellar career saw him become the first player to win both the Super League in League and the Premiership in Union.   

"It was a great achievement. Part of the reason for me going to Sale was because they were bottom of the league when I joined. Having had so much success over the years with Wigan, to go over there and try and help them was going to be another challenge. We managed to win it. When you're not the top team and you achieve a success like that, you feel an immense sense of satisfaction.

"It’s great to look back on those achievements and think ‘wow, was I really part of all that?’”

Be In the Presence Of Greatness

Tickets are on sale now for An Evening With Jason Robinson, priced at just £35 for a standard ticket or £60 for a VIP ticket, offering a complimentary drinks reception, inner-circle tickets and photograph with Jason.

Book your tickets for An Evening with Jason Robinson by visiting the Vikings’ website (click here), emailing: events@widnesvikings.co.uk or calling 0151 495 2250.

Jason Robinson Remembers... widnesvikings.co.uk