Robinson relishing Lions competition

Jason Robinson touched down in New Zealand - and the England World Cup winner immediately predicted a fierce battle for prized British & Irish Lions Test places. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Jason Robinson touched down in New Zealand – and the England World Cup winner immediately predicted a fierce battle for prized British & Irish Lions Test places.

Robinson, England captain throughout much of last season, started all three Tests on the 2001 Lions tour to Australia.

His stunning solo try during the first Test victory in Brisbane remains a vivid memory, but reputations will count for little when Lions chief Sir Clive Woodward considers his line-up to face New Zealand at Jade Stadium, Christchurch on June 25.

Josh Lewsey, Geordan Murphy, Mark Cueto and Shane Horgan have already made strong selection statements with their performances over the Lions’ opening games against Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.

Welsh wings Shane Williams and Tom Shanklin gain a chance in Saturday’s appointment with New Zealand Maori, while Robinson and his fellow late arrival Gareth Thomas are also itching for an opportunity to show their qualities.

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Already, it appears that settling on a Test back three could be arguably Woodward’s toughest selection call.

"There are some great players in this squad," said Robinson, who delayed travelling to New Zealand for a fortnight to be with his pregnant wide Amanda.

"Josh Lewsey has played well at full-back, and Geordan Murphy has had a great game (against Taranaki). We are all going to be fighting for places and hopefully that will bring out the best in us.

"This is the tour everyone wants to be on, playing in New Zealand against some great sides. It is going to be very tough, and 45 players into 15 shirts doesn’t go, so there is some great competition.

"There are only a certain number of places and there are a lot of guys here. It is an environment I enjoy being in, and it is an environment everybody should flourish in," he added.

"Hopefully, it will get the best out of the players, and may the best man take the Test shirt. I have got to do my bit to hopefully impress, and hopefully by the end of it my name will be in that Test team.

"But we won’t be happy unless we go away as winners, simple as that."

Both Robinson and Thomas are likely to start in next Wednesday’s clash against Wellington – a game which should also herald Jonny Wilkinson’s tour bow – as the countdown to Christchurch gathers pace.

Wales star Thomas would have missed Wellington had his club Toulouse reached this weekend’s French Championship final, but defeat against their European Cup final victims Stade Francais last Saturday finally freed him for Lions duties.

"Last weekend was tough, obviously," said Thomas, who has not played international rugby since breaking his thumb midway through Wales’ Six Nations Grand Slam campaign.

"I took the field wanting to win and hoping we would win – I really wanted to play in the final – but I suppose if there is any kind of consolation for losing out in the semi-finals it is the fact that the day after I was on a plane to join up with the Lions.

"It was very mixed feelings for me, but now I’m here (in New Zealand), that game is behind me and I will just concentrate on giving my all for the Lions.

"It is a great honour for me, a great achievement. The best feeling is being around guys that you never thought you would have a chance to play with, guys that I was basically brought up to play against.

"I haven’t missed out on any match fitness, and I have come over here with that fitness still inside me, ready to play straight away."

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