Rugby: Waiting game pays off for Robinson

By Wynne Gray

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Keith Robinson was chosen for his Tri-Nations test debut four years ago. On Saturday, the All Black lock hopes to complete the deal, against the Springboks in Christchurch.

He was meant to play the Wallabies four years ago in Wellington but a back problem during training required several years of steady rehabilitation.

His return to the national squad this year came unstuck in Wellington again when, 10 minutes before the start of the test against France, he tore some scar tissue in his calf during tackle-bag warmups.

"It wasn't a major injury but we knew that if I played on it I ran a pretty high chance of ripping the calf open and that would have been seven or eight weeks [off]," he said yesterday.

A disconsolate Robinson watched the game on a dressing room TV. "It is a tough thing to deal with. I sat in there when Ali [Williams] walked in with his jaw and I didn't feel so bad. There are a lot worse injuries out there than a torn calf but it was still not an easy thing to deal with," he recalled.

"You get over it pretty quickly because you have to, really. You want to make sure you get back in shape to play for the All Blacks again. In hindsight it [withdrawing from the match] has probably turned out to be a good decision because I am back so early."

Coach Graham Henry was confident Robinson could cope with international rugby without many lead-in matches. He advised the lock to bypass club rugby last weekend and concentrate on his preparation to meet the Boks.

Henry was certain Robinson would try to play the entire test but thought it would be best to spell him at some stage.

The 30-year-old's international career has been disrupted by serious injuries to his back and legs, so he has played only eight tests since his 2002 debut on the tour to Europe.

"At times you get fed up. But you have got to get out of that too," he said.

Robinson was cleared for a return after a hit-and-run session with the All Blacks in Melbourne and wanted to be part of a rejuvenated side.

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