England can rule again and change their lives forever, says 2003 hero Jason Robinson
Written by Phil Thomas
JASON ROBINSON is rugby union’s very own Geoff Hurst.
The man who scored for England in a World Cup Final and set the nation rejoicing as the Aussies were beaten in their own back yard.
Even now, 16 years on from that famous Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal triumph, Robinson — who got England’s one try — is stopped by strangers who thank him for his heroics.
After that night, life would never be the same again for any of those who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.
Now, as Eddie Jones readies his men for another assault, Robinson looks back to the glories of 2003 — and sees no reason why England cannot rule the world again.
He said: “I always say the difference between a good player and a great one is the ability to handle pressure.
“We had loads of them — Martin Johnson, Jonny, everywhere you looked were men who performed to that level every week.
“There’s not much difference between a lot of players in terms of ability. It’s about what’s between your ears.
“Anyone can kick a goal when no one’s watching. It’s about doing it when there are 90,000 there. That’s when you really earn your money.
“There are some who relish it, some who wrestle with it, especially if you have a bad game — that’s when mentally you have to be really tough.
‘TIME OF YOUR LIFE’
“Just going through a World Cup demands so much from you mentally as well as physically. The world’s eyes are on you, but it also brings fantastic opportunities.
“And if you do get it right, you’ll have the time of your life — and that life will never be the same again because it does affect your profile massively.
“There are very few World Cup winners out there.
“When you’re playing on the other side of the world, you’re unaware of the impact back home — of how many are actually watching.
“I realised quickly enough as soon as we got back. Even today people remind me where they were, tell me their own little story about the game, and it’s 16 years ago now.
“And England do have a really good chance. They have a good squad, great strength in depth and have had some excellent results going into the tournament.
“ They have a lot of good players in there – Owen Farrell and George Ford, the power and pace of Big Joe Cokanasiga, and Manu Tuilagi is back.
“They’ve a real go-forward pack, with the Vunipolas. In the past you’d have said maybe they lacked a real scavenging No 7. Now they have two in Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.
“There’s still room for improvement but it’s going in the right direction. England are in a good place and the good thing is there’s more to come.”
Warm-up games have gone well — none better than rattling up half a century against Ireland — and only the mighty All Blacks are shorter in the market than England.
Of course, the odds mean little if the focus is not spot-on. Yet if it is, Robinson reckons those who pull the red rose over their chest are in for the time of their lives — and an even more unforgettable welcome home.
The former Wigan and Sale Sharks star, 45, added: “In 2003, living in the north, I got a shuttle to Manchester and didn’t see all the people at the airport in London. Then I went on the parade and it was unbelievable.
‘NEVER NORMAL AGAIN’
“I’d been on quite a few open-top bus rides with Wigan in rugby league but that was just around the town. This was ridiculous.
“Driving down all the main streets, through Trafalgar Square, it was almost like watching a movie.
“People on lampposts, phone boxes, everywhere just to get a sight of us.
“You want to get back to normal life but life is never normal again. It spills into everything you do.
“You might have been able to nip somewhere quickly, do something quietly but all that changes.
“People who maybe didn’t know the first thing about rugby will now be congratulating you, or just saying hello, and of course that’s great.
“I know I didn’t buy a drink for quite a while. It’s humbling to discover how many watched the final.
“But that’s what you work for. To be able to say you are a World Cup winner. There are Premierships, Grand Slams, Six Nations but very few have a World Cup winners’ medal.
“For this England squad now, it’s about delivering. It’s not about excuses, it’s about making sure all the sacrifices, all the preparation, all the time away from your family isn’t wasted.
“It’s about executing all the things they have worked on for so long. All the fitness work, the nutrition, the training, the preparation and the focus.
“This is the platform for them. Have a good World Cup and those players will be set for life. It’s as simple as that . . . just not as simple to achieve.”
JASON ROBINSON is an ambassador for Fuzion 100, the official rehydration partner of England rugby. Find out more at https://www.cocofuzion100.co.uk
Source: The Sun.