Jason Robinson talks… Rugby World Cup, Residency & Reigning Champions

May 12, 2017

Saracens may have rested their ‘big guns’ for their trip to Coventry last weekend, but the confidence Wasps will have gained from a bonus-point win over the reigning champions could prove to be priceless should they meet again on May 27th.

Thomas Young was the standout performer on the day, getting over for a hat-trick of tries to round off what has been a fantastic season for him. He’s the sort of player that every team needs in my opinion, the sort who doesn’t grab the headlines but gets the job done week in week out. As for Elliot Daly’s try, this just showed Wasps’ ability to exploit space and mismatches when they arise. Well done to Dai Young and his team for finishing the season top of the table.

Leicester will be the visitors to the Ricoh a week Saturday after their final day win over Worcester, who managed to outscored the Tigers three tries to one. Freddie Burns was the difference on the day, kicking 23 of Leicester’s 28 points to finish what has been a fantastic end to the season for him. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can end his time with the club with an Aviva Premiership winners medal…

I was at the AJ Bell last weekend, and despite not having anything to play for, Sale took the game to Bath from the start, putting pressure on them and bringing plenty of energy. They dominated the early stages of the game and were the better side for the most part. Denny Solomona showed just why Eddie Jones has selected him to tour Argentina this summer, a fantastic step followed by some serious pace took him over the try line. I’m sure Bath will have been disappointed to have ended their season with defeat, but will already be looking ahead to the next campaign.

Rarely do you see a team celebrate a loss, but that’s exactly what Harlequins did at Franklin’s Gardens after their 22-20 defeat to Northampton. Saints needed to ensure they picked up 4 more points that Quins on the final day in order to leapfrog their opposition in the table and secure Champions Cup rugby next season, but must now wait for the result of this weekend’s Challenge Cup final to find out if they’ll be in the Champions Cup play-off.

“…I’m sure that their target for this time next year will be to finish the league in a Champions Cup qualification spot.”

Exeter made sure of a home semi-final with yet another bonus-point win. Gloucester were leading at the break; however, the Chiefs seem to come alive in the second-half and were deserved winners come the end. They’ll now take on Saracens at Sandy Park next weekend, and I’m sure with the home crowd behind them we’ll witness a fantastic game of rugby. As for Gloucester, they’ll be doing all they can to beat Stade Français in the Challenge Cup final to book their place in the Champions Cup play-off.

It was a case of so near yet so far for Newcastle on the final day, finishing with a 5-point win over Bristol but missing out on 7th place due to Saints’ victory over Quins. They’ve had a great season though and I’m sure that their target for this time next year will be to finish the league in a Champions Cup qualification spot. We’ll find out over the next couple of whether it’ll be Yorkshire Carnegie or London Irish replacing Bristol in the Aviva Premiership.

Onto the groupings for the 2019 Rugby World Cup that were drawn earlier this week, and England will find themselves up against France and Argentina in two years’ time. Some are already calling it the ‘Pool of Death’, but going by how England have been playing over the last 18 months, bar the Ireland performance, they’ve got more than enough ability to beat both of these sides. I’m not saying that either will be easy and I’m sure both will make it tough for England, but I’m sure Eddie Jones’ men will reach the knockout stages. By having these harder matches during the pool stages, I believe it puts you in a better position for when it comes to the do or die scenarios.

We’ve also found out this week that the residency ruling will be upped from 3 years to 5 years as of 2020. I don’t think there can be any complaints made here, countries know when they’re coming into place and they’ve got 3 years to do what they’ve got to do. It should create more opportunities for younger players coming through the age-group sides, who in recent years have found international honours hard to come by due to players from other countries deciding to switch allegiance. I also hope it’ll strengthen teams from the Pacific Nations, who’ve found themselves losing talent to other countries as regular as clockwork in recent years.

“Clermont are going to need to come up with something special if they’re to break through the Sarries defensive line…”

With a place in the Champions Cup play-offs on the line, I can see Gloucester giving it everything in Edinburgh on Friday night. They’ve had an up and down season, but their clash with Stade is an opportunity for them to pick up some silverware and I’m sure David Humphreys will have been relaying a similar message to this to his team this week.

With the likes of Farrell, Itoje and the Vunipola’s fresh after a week of, I’m sure Saracens can make it back-to-back Champions Cup final victories on Saturday evening. Their defence has been almost water-tight once again this season, whilst Owen Farrell has gone from strength to strength this season in the no.10 shirt. Clermont are going to need to come up with something special if they’re to break through the Sarries defensive line, but even then I feel the reigning champions will be too strong.

We found out last weekend that Ben Youngs will not tour New Zealand with the Lions this summer after the sad news of his brother Tom’s wife was announced. I think this puts it all into perspective, what’s more important, and at the end of the day family comes first. He wants to be there to support his family during this tough time, and I’m sure from being in the game so long that there’ll be plenty of support from the wider rugby family. I wish Ben, Tom and the family all the best.

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