As the Six Nations Rugby tournament heads into its final week, one man will be keeping a close eye on proceedings.
Jason Robinson, former England winger and full back, who scored 30 tries in 51 appearances, and tasted World Cup glory in 2003 with the red rose will be willing his compatriots on as they prepare to face the Irish challenge.
The RBS Six Nations Cup (PA)
“Billy Whiz” as he was known because of his electric acceleration, is the most successfull cross-code international in history: winning 4 league titles, two challenge cups and a world club championship with Rugby League giants Wigan, as well as 12 caps for Great Britain, 7 for England, and 1 for a Rest of the World team.
He flirted with Rugby Union briefly in 1996 when he spent half a season with Bath before converting to Union in 2000, when he joined Sale with whom he stayed with until 2007.
Two Lions tours, a World Cup and a Guinness Premiership title later, and Robinson had cemented his legacy as a cross-code legend.
He retired from all Rugby in 2007 before making a brief comeback for second divison outfit Fylde during the 2010-11 season, before hanging up his boots for good.
But life wasn’t always smooth for the 37 year-old father of five.
Raised in a tough working class area of Leeds, his Jamaican father left home before he was born, and his step-father used to regularly beat his mother up. He also faced the challenge of growing up as a black boy in a white family, during the 70s when Racism was a lot more entrenched than nowadays.
After breaking into the Wigan team as a teenager he quickly had it all: fame, money, and women. He partied hard, staying up all night, claiming that from the age of 17 to 21 he ‘went wild’ and the spectre of charges for assault, affray and criminal damage hung over him.
He was also very lonely. Watching the life of team mate ‘Inga’ Tuigamala however changed the Leeds born tyro’s life. The larger than life winger had a peace and tranquility which Robinson craved.
“Sometimes you’d go into the treatment room and find Inga reading his Bible. He would read aloud. He wasn’t chasing anything. He didn’t go out drinking with the lads. He didn’t sleep around. He didn’t have the best car in the car park.” Robinson told Inspire magazine.
Tuigamala’s life led Robinson to ask himself: “Why was he so happy?”
As the weeks and months went by he was able to ask the tough winger questions about his faith, before eventually he realised that it was not money, the latest car or a bigger house he needed, but the forgiveness of his sins. “It felt like the scales had been taken away from my eyes,” he said.
England face Ireland at 5pm on Saturday 17th.
March 12th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Hefin Rhys Jones