Robinson returns for Tahs after wake-up call
Big Benn … prop Benn Robinson returns to the Waratahs starting side after being dropped for the club's first game of the season against the Queensland Reds last week. Photo: Brendan Esposito
WHEN Benn Robinson missed out on a starting place with the Waratahs in last Saturday's season opener, the Wallabies loose-head prop found the painful memories of being left out of the playing squad by then coach Ewen McKenzie in 2008 were only skin deep.
After being named in the Waratahs starting side for Friday's round-three meeting with the Melbourne Rebels at Allianz Stadium, Robinson said being dropped to the NSW Academy by McKenzie reminded him how tenuous selection can be.
As it did when he was dropped to the bench for Jeremy Tilse by Waratahs coach Michael Cheika for last Saturday's Queensland Reds game.
Asked what he was able to take from that 2008 selection disappointment to help him rally and retrieve the No.1 Waratahs jersey from Tilse, Robinson said: ''You are only in this jersey for a short time. It's not like I needed the motivation to pull on the jersey and be inspired to play. It was a reminder that it is such an honour any time I do get to pull on the blue jersey.
''There is always that little spark there when you get thrown to the bench. And the realisation that you are maybe short in a few areas, or [the coach] is not happy in a few areas.''
Cheika wouldn't go as far as to say that dropping Robinson was supposed to give him a rev up. ''Tilse earned that place,'' Cheika said on Wednesday. ''I'm not looking to punish people. All I'm trying to do is get a very clear idea around the work ethic that is required for the whole team.
''[This week] I wanted to change up, give Benn an opportunity from the start. He had really good impact when he came on field [last week].
''I want him to be more dynamic and more active around the field and fill his potential because he is a really, really good football player.''
But Cheika won't apologise for being hard on Robinson - nor any of his players - to make them the best they can be. ''Sometimes he is not going to like it if I am pushing him to be like that, but I know it is for him to be a better player,'' Cheika said. ''He is not the only one. I will be pushing everyone like that - to work harder and go to places they haven't been to.''
Cheika stuck to his word on Wednesday. For Friday's game, he made one other change to the starting side that lost to the Reds in Brisbane - in the second row by dropping Wallaby Sitaleki Timani to the bench for new recruit Mitchell Chapman.
Chapman, a 29-year-old former Reds and Brumbies player, had been playing in Japan for NTT Docomo before being signed last month. He signed his one-year contract with the Waratahs when a place was freed on their roster by Damien Fitzpatrick's season-ending knee injury.
Cheika said the Timani-Chapman selection issue was based on form. The fact Timani copped a heavy knock to his leg last week didn't come into the debate.
''Chapman worked really hard in the two games he played after only just arriving and he has deserved a start,'' Cheika said. ''Sita's role will be to provide some punch off the bench. He is in some doubt - he has a bit of a cork - but that wouldn't have come into the selection. I picked that beforehand.''
Cheika also kept his faith in Israel Folau, naming him as fullback after lapses in defence and ball handling last week. ''He will be a lot sharper … like [with] how he is bringing the ball back,'' Cheika said. ''I and the team believe in his skills so much.
''As a team, we have to deliver him some shape to give him some opportunities.''
Waratahs: Israel Folau, Tom Kingston, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (c), Kane Douglas, Mitchell Chapman, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: John Ulugia, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sitaleki Timani, Lopeti Timani, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola