Will Robinson can expect a warm welcome when he steps out on to the Dry Leas pitch for Saturday’s friendly against Henley Hawks (kick-off 3pm).
For the London Welsh fly half it will be the first time he’ll have returned to the scene of Henley’s National League South 2 triumph, when they beat Worthing Raiders in a thrilling winner takes all clash on the final weekend of last season to clinch the title and promotion by just two points.
Robinson, 20, played a leading role in that success, alongside Exiles teammate Nathan Morris. Joining the Hawks on loan from Wasps for the final push towards promotion, Robinson racked up 164 points in 12 appearances, including 18 points in a man of the match display as the Hawks beat Worthing 55-27 at Dry Leas to cue joyous celebrations on the pitch.
“It was a blinding day, the sun was shining and some great ruby was played,” recalled Robinson. “We had a bit of an edgy start and they scored the first try, but as the game went on we got into our patterns and the gaps started appearing. I enjoyed it a lot.”
The same afternoon, and just 20 miles away at the Kassam Stadium, the curtain was coming down on London Welsh’s Premiership with a defiant victory over Worcester. On Saturday, Robinson will return to Dry Leas, only this time in a Welsh jersey.
“It was a great experience; all the lads there were smashing and I’m really looking forward to going back. It will be like a home game for me,” he said.
“It’s a good rugby track, especially on a sunny day. It’s nice and flat and it’s good for running rugby. Henley are a team that run everything and their fitness is good - Saturday will be a good test for us.
“I wasn’t getting much game time at the start of the season [at Wasps] and I needed to get some somewhere. Pete Davies at Henley gave me a chance. I got 30 minutes off the bench away to Clifton and from there I started every game and we did well.”
The summer saw Robinson make the move to London Welsh, bringing to an end to his long association with Wasps – he’d been picked up by the club’s Academy while playing Under 11s at Whitgift School in South Croydon.
He became a member of the Wasps Academy Apprenticeship Scheme in 2009, before progressing into its full Academy.
He toured Australia with England U18 in 2011 and spent the following season cutting his teeth at Rosslyn Park in National League 1, as well as in the A League with Wasps.
His senior debut for Wasps came against Worcester Warriors in the LV= Cup in October 2011 and he went on to make a total of five first-team appearances for the club.
A fly half who can play full back, Robinson has already had the benefit of learning his trade under the wing of Stephen Jones and Nicky Robinson at Wasps and Ross Laidlaw at Park. At London Welsh he now has a new mentor in Gordon Ross.
“At the start I struggled a little bit to understand his thick Scottish accent, but I’m getting used to it now,” said Robinson.
“He’s a great player and I’m learning a lot from him. It’s good playing alongside him in training and just watching what he does. I pick up on things and he tells me things, whether it’s to do with kicking or phase play. He’s been a great help.
“It was tough [leaving Wasps] but I think I needed a new start, and to get more game time. Tuesday and Thursday night training killed me a little bit, but now I’m just training full-time at Welsh it’s much better. And I get time out from rugby as well, just to put my feet up and relax.”
Robinson has featured in both of Welsh’s pre-season friendlies so far, a comprehensive win over Chinnor and last Sunday’s 16-16 draw with the Scarlets at the Kassam. A game which saw the visitors snatch a draw from the last play of the game.
“I’ve think we’ve played pretty well and we arguably should have won against the Scarlets. We just need to finish off the chances we create - there were a few dropped balls,” he said.
Robinson’s goals for his first season at London Welsh and of Championship rugby are plain and simple.
“To become the best player I can be. If I’ve done something wrong in a game to learn from that and work on it, to try and develop my whole game and to gain more experience and develop a wiser mind, because I’m still young,” he said.