Robinson backs former mucker

Jason Robinson is adamant Andy Farrell has the credentials to succeed in rugby union after seeing his friend and former team-mate finally make his long-awaited debut in the 15-man code. [more]

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Jason Robinson is adamant Andy Farrell has the credentials to succeed in rugby union after seeing his friend and former team-mate finally make his long-awaited debut in the 15-man code.

The duo won every domestic honour going in rugby league when colleagues at Wigan in the 1990s, but they are set to be on opposite sides when Robinson’s Sale host Farrell’s Saracens in the Guinness Premiership on Friday night.

Farrell has finally put to bed the injury nightmare which ruined his first year in union, making his bow – as a substitute – for Sarries in their 44-20 victory over Newcastle on Sunday.

The 31-year-old, who before last weekend had not played a game in either code since November 2004, on Tuesday took his first foray into the national team set-up by meeting up with the England squad at Loughborough for their first get-together of the season.

And Sharks skipper Robinson is sure Farrell will have no problem transferring his skills to the 15-man game.

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"Andy is an exceptional player and he battles for a full 80 minutes," said the former England captain.

"He was captain of both Wigan and Great Britain by the time he was 22 and is a born leader. He doesn’t know the word ‘fail’ and even when he was battling injury, I knew he would recover.

"I am sure he will be as big a success in rugby union as he was in rugby league.

"I am looking forward to seeing him on Friday and having a chat after the game."

Robinson is one of the few converts to have been an undoubted success in both forms of rugby.

Since moving from Wigan to Sale, he has won the World Cup with England, skippered his country, starred for the British Lions and captained the Sharks to last season’s Premiership title.

Farrell has the utmost respect for Robinson, who has quit the international scene to focus his energies on the Sharks.

"What a player and what a character," Farrell said. "He has hit the heights in both codes.

"I came up through the ranks at Wigan with Jason and he has always been a special talent. He can still turn a game on his own.

"He has captained England and in his two years as captain of Sale Sharks, he has won silverware. He is a credit to both codes."

Farrell is delighted to have put his injury heartache behind him.

On arriving at Saracens last summer, he hurt his toe in a warm-up match weeks before the start of the season.

And just as he was poised to return, he suffered a prolapsed disc, which required surgery and ruled him out for the rest of the campaign.

But after playing – and scoring a try – for Saracens A in last week’s 30-12 defeat by their Harlequins counterparts, 18 months after he changed codes, he made his long-awaited first start in the Premiership in the match against the Falcons.

"The last 18 months have been a nightmare but, touch wood, things are looking up again," he said.

"In 12 years at Wigan, I suffered a broken nose and a broken ankle, and my longest spell on the sidelines was four weeks."

He added: "I am looking forward to playing in the north west again and I hear that there will be a contingent of Wigan fans at the game. Wigan are very special to me."

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