After a well-travelled career where he has plied his trade in the Pro12, Top14 and Aviva Premiership, Nicky Robinson chats about a 15-year stint at No 10
After establishing himself as a gifted playmaker at Cardiff Blues and winning 13 Wales caps, fly-half Nicky Robinson headed to England and then France to ply his trade. He turned out for Gloucester, Wasps, Bristol and Oyonnax before retiring last summer, but dusted off his boots to return to his boyhood club on a short-term basis this season.
Here he talks to RW about Kenny Dalglish, racehorses and avoiding Lesley Vainikolo on a night out…
I was more of a footballer as a kid. I played on the left wing and had a bit of pace. My parents were sporty and I also played some county cricket. I loved any sport.
Growing up as a kid in Cardiff, I looked up to Mikey Rayer. He was a Cardiff (rugby) legend and helped me out at the start of my career. The other was Neil Jenkins. He was the main man with Wales and a brilliant kicker.
After hanging up my boots last summer, I never expected to be coming out of retirement. To end up back at Cardiff Blues was a total bolt from the blue. I knew (coach) Danny Wilson from our time at Bristol and we get on well, so I enjoyed every game.
No player looks back and thinks, ‘I’ve had enough Test caps’. That’s part of my career I wish I’d made more of. On the flip side, I played more than most young Welsh kids.
Playing with my brother Jamie for Wales was a highlight of my career. With all the injuries that occurred between us, I felt lucky to be able to do that on two occasions.
I made friends for life at Gloucester. I had an amazing time. It was a wrench to leave Cardiff when they were going well but I’d always wanted to play outside Wales. In our second year we won the LV= Cup and finished third in the Premiership. You can’t complain about that.
Lesley Vainikolo was quite a character. If he managed to stay in a nightclub all night without getting chucked out, he’d be doing well. He was so generous and would buy 50 drinks for everyone at the bar, but if you wanted a quiet night out with your girlfriend, it was best to avoid ‘Big Les’.
I’m pleased but also jealous of Wasps’ success. When I was there, there were some hard times but I’m chuffed for players like Christian Wade, Joe Simpson, Elliot Daly and Joe Launchbury. They’ve been loyal and tasted success. It’s a special club.
At Wasps I was part of the ‘boys at the back of the bus’ gang. Myself, James Haskell, Chris Bell, Richard Birkett and Tim Payne would watch the youngsters on their iPhones and say, “What’s happened to the chat and banter?” Payney would always be having a slurp on the bus; he was proper old school.
I got into horses when I was living in Cheltenham. I just wanted to have a bit of fun and learn a bit more about racing, and I thought the best way was to buy a horse. Myself, Sinbad (James Simpson-Daniel) and Tinds (Mike Tindall) said we’d chip in together and we lucked out.
We never expected Monbeg Dude to win the Welsh National. He didn’t cost much, started slowly but really kicked on. Some of the memories I had with Dude I’ll never forget, like coming third in the Grand National (in 2015). It is up there as one of my best sporting memories.
I was a Liverpool fan as a kid, which helped when I ended up with Kenny Dalglish as
my father-in-law. My favourite player was John Barnes because he was a left-winger, but I’m not a die-hard like Nugget (Martyn Williams).
I love my golf. I play with Kenny but he’s a lot better than me and takes great pleasure in letting me know that fact. Everywhere you go Kenny is admired.
I have two boys; Taylor and Archie. They keep me busy and I was lucky I had Archie last summer when I wasn’t doing a pre-season. For once, I was around to help out!
The English-speaking boys stuck together in Oyonnax. There was Eamonn Sheridan from Munster and prop Stan Wright, a Kiwi who’d played at Leinster. Lastly, there was big George Robson from Harlequins.
The passion they have for club rugby in Oyonnax is incredible. When Oyo beat Bordeaux in our first home match, I’d never experienced such an atmosphere. It was so important for the town to be in the Top 14. There was no football there so our results meant everything.
Post-rugby, I’ve enjoyed doing some media. I’ve been able to do my research and doing live TV, you also get a bit of a buzz. I’ve played in the Top 14, Premiership and Pro12, so I’ve been about. I want to improve so I’ll speak to producers after the match for feedback. Now I listen to all sports differently, trying to pick up tips.
Who knows what I’ll do in the long term? I’d like to be a kicking coach but I have a few things in the pipeline. We’ll have to see. n