Tom Robinson the red-haired whirling dervish, ginger-ninja blindside flanker has been setting the pace in this year’s Super Rugby tournament. His energy levels seem to know no bounds; it’s great to see a player exhibit so much fervour and eagerness, piling himself into rucks and tackles and bound with ball-in-hand in open spaces, what a breath of fresh air!
His humility, the “aw-shucks” persona is making him a huge hero not just in far north (his home region) and Blues country but all over the rugby-mad nation.
We all love a ‘rookie comes from nowhere’ story, something a little off the normal “AB script”. Robinson seemed to be heading down that road.
Last Saturday as the Blues knocked off their fourth victory in succession against the Waratahs, the Big Red opened the try-scoring account screaming down the left flank. All through the game, he impressed with another lung-busting shift.
Then in the 75th minute with the Blues 32-24 ahead the Waratahs had an attacking scrum 12-metres out. Scrum-half Jake Gordon was off like a flash, probing the tight blind side where Harry Plummer stationed on the wing. That’s when the blindside flanker has to spring into action, off the scrum and cover the 9. Sadly Robinson had his head down adding his weight and strength to the pack. In the end, openside flanker Dalton Papalii got closest to Gordon, coming from the other side of the scrum. Akira Ioane was also head down, bum up.
Luckily the Blues held out to win the game but that moment underlined that Tom Robinson has a bit to learn about wearing the 6 jersey at a high level.
He’s spent a lot of time at lock and even though he has the physical attributes and energy levels for being a world-class blindside, when you look at the pantheon of world class 6s in the last 40 years, they have the physicality but also the knowledge of how to read a game, the anticipation to be at the right place at the right time.
It was noticeable the error was barely mentioned in the post-match breakdown as Tom Robinson has the admiration of everyone and he hasn’t blown his trumpet. It seems almost unfair to expose the mistake and grill him about it. The press and public have been speculating on whether he will be the World Cup bolter for 2019. Robinson has remained grounded and realistic.
When he was asked what he was looking forward to in 2019 a couple of weeks ago, he said: “getting stuck in for the Blues and the Taniwha” (Taniwha is the nickname for Northland, his Mitre 10 side).
He knows he has a load to learn at 6 and he will, and odds are on he’ll go on to be an outstanding All Black. But not this year.
Richie Mo’unga ahead of Highlanders’ derby:
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