Date: January 01 2013
BENN ROBINSON is yet to talk at length with Michael Cheika about the challenge of winning an elusive Super Rugby title but after eight years in a side that has fallen short of its potential, the Wallabies prop likes what he has heard of the new Waratahs coach.
The former Randwick and Waratahs back-rower, who has taken the reins on a three-year deal after coaching stints at Padova, Randwick, Leinster and Stade Francais, is a no-frills upfront coach whose only penchant for flair is for the style of game he wants - attacking running rugby.
Cheika has made sweeping changes at the underperforming Tahs, who, despite being the biggest supplier of players to the Wallabies, have never won a Super Rugby title, unlike their two main rivals, the Brumbies, who won in 2001 and 2004, and the Queensland Reds, the 2011 champs.
''I have sat and had a bit of chat with him, the week before last, yet we haven't sat down and gone over things,'' Robinson said. ''But speaking to the boys, he has really set a benchmark nice and early on. The place feels like where rugby is number one. The boys are focused on really training hard and there is no mucking about … He has called a spade a spade a few times before, and that's good to hear. You are going over there to put your best performance out all the time, and to hear it plain and simple from a coach is a good thing.''
One thing Robinson, 28, hopes to hear is that the Waratahs captaincy will be offered to him again. The Waratahs are yet to name their skipper for next year. But after 101 games for NSW - including 94 in Super Rugby - and 56 Tests, Robinson won't talk up his case. ''Of course I would like to captain the side. It's always going to be a goal, to captain my state, but that'll [sort] itself out,'' was all Robinson would say.
He plans to rejoin the non-Wallabies NSW players at training next Monday - a week early - and is confident he will be able to produce his best in a big year for Australian rugby, with the British and Irish Lions touring for the first time since 2001.
It should hearten Cheika and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to hear Robinson say he finished the year with the spring tour win over Wales still below his best condition after recovering from a knee injury in mid-2011 that required an operation and ruled him out of that year's World Cup. ''You don't come back from an operation and play your best footy straight away - I was building back into my game and getting fitter as the games went on,'' said Robinson, who estimates he still played ''about 30'' games last year - including all 14 Wallabies Tests, 13 in the starting side.
As focused as Robinson plans to be on helping the Waratahs win their first Super title, he cannot play down what playing the Lions will mean to him. His memory of the 2001 Lions tour to Australia is as vivid now as it was impressive then as a year 11 student at the King's School.
''I remember a massive sea of red at the games and [how] all the Sydney streets were crowded with [British] people,'' Robinson said. ''I remember [Wallaby] Justin Harrison stole a lineout to win [the third and deciding Test in Sydney]. That is still spoken about now … in the northern hemisphere. I've played in Bledisloe Cup and other big games … no World Cups though. If I get selected, it will be one of my biggest games I can be in. Twelve years [since the last Lions tour] … it is a long time ago. You are lucky to play one in your career.''
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