Robinson backs Folau for Lions series berth
March 30, 2013
Israel Folau would start his Test career in June with less experience in the code than Jason Robinson © Getty Images
Former England league and union star Jason Robinson believes Israel Folau has the ability to run on for his first Test in a British & Lions series and that his inexperience in international rugby could actually prove to be an asset for the Wallabies.
Dual-international Robinson did exactly that on the Lions tour to Australia in 2001.
"It was quite weird for me," Robinson told The Daily Telegraph. "I played my first game of rugby for Sale Sharks in November, 2000 and the next February I played three games off the bench for England. So, that first Lions Test at the Gabba was my first run-on Test start in rugby union."
After playing more than 300 league games for Wigan and 19 Tests for England and Great Britain, Robinson sought new challenges in rugby and had barely grown accustomed to the code's rules when he came onto the pitch in Brisbane for the first Test, and admits he didn't know any of the Wallabies players.
"That was just my ignorance of the code. But what was good for me was, while I knew I was playing against some of the best players in the world and gave them respect, I wasn't bothered about names," he said. "I just went out to play and challenge myself against the best."
And within three minutes of play and with only 3 meters of space to the sideline, the lightning-quick winger passed Australia fullback Chris Latham on the outside to score the opening try, and set the Lions on course for victory.
"You know something? At the time, I didn't know who Chris Latham was," Robinson said. "It was just because of my rugby league background. Later I found out he was one of the best fullbacks to ever play the game, and is a very intelligent player. My strength, being a bit of a midget, was my feet and I managed to just get on the outside of him. It was just on the day, everything went well for us. But after that, it didn't."
The Lions return in June to Australia and Robinson holds a "good feeling" the famous composite side can break its 16-year drought of series' wins. One man Robinson believes can contribute to the Wallabies' attempt to stretch the drought to 20 years, though, is Folau.
"It's amazing. I was able to play two different sports in league and union. You look at Israel, he's got three to his name. That in itself suggests he's something special," Robinson said.
Robinson had a seven-month season to learn rugby before touring, but by June Folau will only have had a two-month pre-season and 16 weeks playing Super Rugby.
"Australia have got some exceptional outside backs already, let's be honest, but he has so many different qualities, he's an exceptional talent," Robinson said. "Every time a Lions tour comes up, there's (sic) always one or two players who is new, and pops up and seems to stand out. He is one of those players. He could cause the Lions problems."
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