Plenty of names have been thrown around since the World Cup finished with regards to who should be in contention for a spot in the Six Nations squad next spring. Some of those players are ones who have just produced so many quality, consistent performances that you can’t ignore them anymore. One of them, is George Robson.
Speaking earlier this week at Harlequins base at Surrey Sports Park, Robson was fresh off the training pitch as Harlequins re-group ahead of their second match with Toulouse this Sunday. The loss last Friday was the club’s first of the season, and Robson was not happy about it.
“Personally, I’ve been really pissed off about it. I don’t like losing for a second. But, what Conor (O’Shea, Director of Rugby) said before last Friday’s match was spot on; win or lose it doesn’t really change that much about how you are as a team, it doesn’t make you a bad team or a great team in the first place. It’s an experience that we’ve come out on the other side of and we know that if the performance is right and you hit your targets that we have, then funnily enough we normally find that the result takes care of itself.”
The results certainly have gone Quins way this season, with them now sitting on 14 out of 15 wins this season. Last weekend was another matter though, as they took on a team whose pedigree was echelons above what they’ve come up against thus far.
“They’ve got several players who were involved with the World Cup final. It’s quite funny when you’re going through the video and the coaches say “Look at how Dusautoir comes in here…”, and you think about the names who you’re analysing. That reaction shows the respect we have for them as a team.”
“It felt like a big step up in terms of intensity. We were frustrated because we got back into the game briefly in the second half, but there’s plenty we want to put right. It’s no secret we didn’t turn up physically, or play at a level where you can compete with a team such as Toulouse, which we’re eager to correct.”
The experience that Harlequins, and Robson, have taken out of last week’s game will stand them in good stead going forward. And whilst the lock recognises that Toulouse were a notch above Quins last week, there were some similarities between the two sides. “If you play against a side with so many world class players, and don’t take your chances, then it costs you. We pride ourselves as a team on being able to capitalise on other people’s mistakes, and that works both ways. You can’t give them anything.”
Although Harlequins have produced big results against Gloucester and Newcastle, there have also been narrow, edgy wins over Worcester, London Wasps and Exeter. Those fine margins often lead to titles, so when prompted as to what factor it comes down to, Robson focuses on the control that Quins have shown thus far. “Winning those tight games is about the top two inches and how you react to the pressure; relying on each other and keeping your composure. When it gets tough that’s when your experience and bond of playing with your teammates comes through, and we will find that what we learned from last week comes out this weekend.”
Coming back to the Six Nations, Robson’s inclusion has to happen. Over the next two weeks he will first face the baying Stade Toulousain faithful, who expect nothing less than glory. Following that, Quins are on course to run out in front of a sell-out 82,000 crowd against Saracens in the Big Game 4 at Twickenham. Two games as close to Test rugby as you will find without representing your country, and Robson is relishing them.
“As someone who aspires to play international rugby, those big games are were you really test yourself. That kind of intensity and atmosphere that you find down in Toulouse is right up there. Also, running out at Twickenham as a young English player is an invaluable experience, playing in front of that crowd, in that atmosphere. There’s pressure to it as well but I’m looking forward to it, even though all of the focus now is on this weekend. My family can’t wait either as it’s a great day out.”
That emphasis of focusing on each game, each week at a time however means that no one is looking past this Sunday. “If we lose on Sunday that’s the Heineken Cup for us this season, because you’re leaving it out of your hands. We’ll go out and enjoy the occasion.”
by Ben Coles
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images