O'Driscoll's experience a big plus for Lions captaincy, says Robinson

Jason Robinson paid a fleeting visit to Dublin yesterday, fulfilling his role as brand ambassador for the men's clothing label Gagliardi at Arnotts. Photograph: Marc O'Sullivan

Jason Robinson paid a fleeting visit to Dublin yesterday, fulfilling his role as brand ambassador for the men's clothing label Gagliardi at Arnotts. Photograph: Marc O'Sullivan

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 00:00

It was in Oz in 2001 that Jason Robinson encountered good friend Brian O’Driscoll, writes JOHN O'SULLIVAN

At 38 Jason Robinson retains the athletic trim of his playing days. He might care to attribute his youthful appearance to a healthy diet and good genes, although these days there’s another kind of jeans that dominate his current career path as he pays a fleeting visit to Dublin, fulfilling his role as brand ambassador for the men’s clothing label Gagliardi at Arnotts.

An outstanding player in first rugby league (Wigan) and then union (Bath, Sale Sharks), he played in two World Cup finals (2003, 2007) for England, claiming a winner’s medal on the first occasion. The player affectionately known as Billy Whizz for his swashbuckling style and dancing feet twice toured with the British and Irish Lions, to Australia in 2001 and New Zealand four years later.

It was in Oz that he encountered Brian O’Driscoll, a friendship that has endured to this day. This summer Warren Gatland will take the Lions back to Australia and Robinson has no problem endorsing O’Driscoll’s credentials. He explained: “People talk about legends of the game and it’s overused as a term on players that really aren’t. A legend is someone who is consistently good over a long period of time. You can have one or two seasons, where you’re all the rage, but when you’ve done it for as long as he is then it’s completely different.

“At the moment you see stuff that he does in games that other players can’t do. An average game for Brian O’Driscoll is a very good game for most other people. We get used to that standard every week.

“Having been under that pressure at times myself; it’s not easy. He’s done it though. He’s well respected around the world. He’s been the most consistently good player in world rugby. He’s a nice guy too.”

Retain form

Robinson argues that Irishman must retain his form through to the end of the Six Nations but if he does and is selected to tour his mere presence will be a galvanising factor for his team-mates. “I go back to (the Lions tour in) 2001. I didn’t know much about rugby union at the time but playing for the Lions I felt in a very privileged position.

“Prior to that tour Keith Wood wouldn’t have registered with me as a player because I played rugby league. But as I came into (union) and I saw these players I appreciated what they were, what they stood for; their qualities.

“You looked around that huddle and you got the confidence that today was going to be a good day because he (Wood) was not going to take a backward step. Then you see (Martin) Johnson and (know) he wasn’t going to take a backward step; not only was he going to do his job but he was going to go that bit further.

“Brian O’Driscoll was one of those players. He may not be as fast as he was when he was 24 but his mind still works three times faster than 99 per cent of the players out there.”

Robinson has been impressed by England’s start to the Six Nations. Chris Robshaw has caught his eye, potentially as a Lions captain.

“I’d say Robshaw has to be up there and I’m not just saying that because I’m English: form and winning is a great formula,” he said.

“At the start of the Six Nations most people believed Sam Warburton would captain the Lions and there’s still time, depending on results, for things to change again.

“I know it is one of those fairytale things but I wouldn’t write Brian O’Driscoll out of the equation. Form is one thing but experience as a captain is very important.”

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