|Born||Leeds, July 30 1974
|Internationals||51 caps between 2001 and 2007
|Inducted||England v Australia (November 15, 2008)
Try scorer in England's successful 2003 World Cup Final with Australia
The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.
Not for nothing was Jason Robinson dubbed ‘Billy Whizz’ after the speedy comic character. In fact speed was a feature of his rugby union career. He was certainly one of the fastest players to grace Twickenham.
But his speed was not confined to running on the pitch. Robinson made his debut for Sale at the beginning of November 2000 and just three months later, on February 17, he made his England debut. Fast tracking by anyone’s standards.
Robinson, who was selected as a replacement, wasted little time in winning over the fans on that memorable day. “My England debut against Italy was a massive day for me, there’s no doubt about it. I hadn’t been in rugby union very long before I got the call-up.
“It was bizarre because I can remember sitting on the bench and hearing people around me shouting ‘Get him on, get him on.’ It was great the way Twickenham took to me. It was just amazing. I hadn’t even touched the ball, but the crowd was really looking forward to me getting the ball in my hands and seeing what I could do.”
It was the start of what for many was an all-too brief career, although Robinson still notched up 51 caps for England between 2001 and 2007, retiring from international rugby not once but twice. Even so, Robinson did more than enough to earn his place among some of the legendary figures in the world game.
He was helped by his wonderful relationship with Twickenham and its crowds. No fewer than 16 of his 28 tries for England were scored at Headquarters. He opened his account during his sixth appearance with a four-try haul that went a long way to annihilating Romania.
During his career he scored a further two hat-tricks, one against Italy in a Six Nations match in Rome and another in the autumn of that same year, 2004, against Canada.
But never let it be said that Robinson was only potent against weaker sides. He scored the winning try against Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Sydney, and on three occasions ran in two tries against Scotland. France also saw him go over their line on three occasions, two of them at Twickenham, when Robinson breached Les Bleus’ defences for a try in each match.
Robinson had no problem explaining his predilection for scoring tries at Twickenham. “I enjoyed playing on a big stage – and they don’t come much bigger than Twickenham and playing in front of your home crowd is always a special occasion.
“The style of rugby I play as well is what lots of people want to see and what they get excited about. Although you don’t play that way just for entertainment, you realise that what you are doing is exactly that, entertaining the crowd. They want to see tries.
“They don’t want to see kicking all the time, they want to see some open rugby and that’s what I tried to bring to English rugby union. I didn’t try to kick, and because I was used to playing rugby league I wanted to keep a more open attacking style of play to my game and I think that certainly helped me to score so many tries at Twickenham.
“Of course I had to make adjustments over the years because of changes to the laws of the game, and I also had to become a bit smarter in the way I played, but for me it was always about getting hold of the ball and taking people on. And I think the crowd took to me because of that.”
He has also appeared on a few occasions at rugby league’s adopted home in the south, Wembley. While he did not make a direct comparison between the two great grounds, Robinson did say: “Playing at Wembley was a childhood dream for me. I went from going down on the coach as a supporter with friends and family, to going there as a player and walking out through the tunnel and it was always a special occasion.
“But I think Twickenham is somehow different. I think before they finished Twickenham off this summer (2008), for me there was always something missing. But now they have actually enclosed the stadium I think it just makes it into one of the best stadiums in the world.
“It is great for English rugby to have its own stadium. Wembley was always an adopted stadium for rugby league, but Twickenham was always the home of English rugby union.”
The Twickenham memories are many, but for Robinson the stand-out one came before a ball had been passed or kicked in earnest in his 24 matches there.
“My favourite personal memory of playing at Twickenham is of just standing there, singing the National Anthem, knowing that you are doing a very special job and that you have a big responsibility to serve your country well. I was always aware of that and I always wanted to do the shirt justice.”
He has another reason for remembering Twickenham with fondness. Indeed his recent ‘final, final’ appearance at HQ – in the Help for Heroes match in September 2008 – was a reminder of something that he always enjoyed about playing there.
“One of the things that I was really looking forward to was getting into the bath after the game. I am only a midget so I can get comfy in quite a lot of baths, but the ones at Twickenham are quite special. They are big baths. And they fill up within seconds.
“In this new era everybody is into post-match ice baths and that sort of thing, but I have to say that while everybody else freezes in their ice baths, I get into a bubble bath and have a good soak, even at Twickenham.”
Of Robinson’s 24 matches at Twickenham three stand out for the former Great Britain Rugby League international. “I think we actually played our best rugby in 2002. To have beaten Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the autumn internationals at Twickenham before the 2003 Rugby World Cup was a very special time.”
New Zealand went down 31-28, Australia 32-31 and South Africa a resounding 53-3. “I think it did wonders not just for England but for Northern Hemisphere rugby,” added Robinson. “People then started to think, ‘We can take these sides down as well.’ It was a very significant time.”
Robinson was also in the England teams which then went Down Under and beat the All Blacks 15-13 in Wellington and the Wallabies 25-14 in Melbourne as the Red Rose team built up a head of steam for their historic Rugby World Cup triumph.
For all Robinson’s familiarity with Twickenham, and especially the pitch and the try lines, it’s not always plain sailing for the former Sale Shark at the Stadium.
“I must admit I get lost quite a bit at Twickenham. It is such a big place and sometimes, when you come outside the West Stand after a game trying to get to another part of the ground, it can be tricky, because there are thousands of people all wanting autographs while you are walking around the perimeter. It makes trying to get from A to B then round to C very difficult, and there have been occasions where I ‘ve been trying to get somewhere and missed it completely, and have then ended up doing a lap of Twickenham.”
At least fans will now know where to find Robinson at Twickenham: on the World Rugby Museum’s Wall of Fame.
“I think to be included on the Wall of Fame is a massive honour,” Robinson said. “I have not been around in rugby union for that long and so to be included with all those other great union players is very special.
“And I think it is right that some of the players who have made this game what it is today are acknowledged in this way. It is nice that my name can be on the Wall of Fame with the rest of them.”
Article by Dai Llewellyn