Jason Robinson may have a World Cup winners’ medal and two British and Irish Lions tours under his belt, but the dual-code legend ranks his 1994 World Club Challenge victory right up there with his best achievements.
The lightning-fast winger was himself on the scoresheet when the Wigan Warriors sprung a shock to beat the Brisbane Broncos 20-14 in their own back yard 25 years ago.
And with his former side – where Robinson spent eight fond years before making the move across to rugby union – preparing to host this year’s World Club Challenge match against Australia’s NRL champions Sydney Roosters on Sunday, the 44-year-old sees several distinct parallels between his vintage and this year’s pretenders.
“I look back on my career and one of the biggest wins for me in a rugby shirt was ’94, beating Brisbane away in a World Club Challenge,” he said.
“I look back on that memory very fondly – I can go back to it in a split second – and that’s what’s great about this opportunity for Wigan this week, because if you don’t come out and get stuck into them, if you give them too much respect then they’ll tear you apart.
“It’s one of those games where you’re always written off. You’re an English team and always seen as playing in an inferior competition.
“For the guys today, it’s no different; you want to test yourself against the best players and Sydney have certainly got those.
“For Wigan it’s going to be tough, but they’re going to be looking forward to that because it’s an opportunity to make history.”
The World Club Challenge is rugby league’s annual meeting between the winners of England’s Super League and Australia’s NRL.
Already a spicy contest given Anglo-Australian sporting relations, this year’s edition is ramped up by the fact that it sees the competition’s two most successful teams face off.
Wigan currently lead the way in the overall standings with four titles, while the Roosters can draw level with their English rivals with victory at the DW Stadium.
But Robinson believes that the Warriors must put the gravitas of the occasion out of their minds if they are to give themselves the best chance of victory on Sunday night.
“You’ve just got to make sure that you don’t give them too much respect,” he continued.
“Yes, you respect them because of what you do, but my belief is that you don’t give those players space, you make it difficult for them.
“As a club you want to get as many as possible; you want to be the club that’s seen as backing the history.
“As players they’ll have grown up watching teams before them do it, so they themselves will want those memories and that’s why it’ll be big for them, it’ll be big for Sydney coming over to the UK.
“Some of those players won’t have experienced the style of rugby that we have over here, so we’ve just got to make sure that we get stuck into them and don’t give them anything. Hopefully the whole of Super League will get behind Wigan and we’ll see a famous win.
“It’s just massive all round. If Wigan can do it’ll send ripples all over the world.”
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in the Betfred World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets
By Joe Leavey