Jason, good to talk to you. What brings you to Dubai? I’m here as an ambassador for HSBC’s rugby programme along with [former Australian rugby international] George Gregan. We’ve been holding coaching clinics around the city and watching the Sevens tournament. It’s great! We’re trying to promote the game at a grass-roots level and it’s fantastic for George and I to come to the Middle East, to see what’s going on and encourage the kids – not just expats, but local Emirati kids too.
Have you had any chance to pop up to the top of the Burj Khalifa, Tom-Cruise style, or visit any restaurants? No, sadly not. It’s been full-on, but I get a day off so I’ll catch up with a few other ex-players who are here for the Sevens. A good friend of mine, Apollo Perilini [former Samoan rugby international], works out here and I’ll be meeting up with Kingsley Jones [former Sale Sharks boss and current coach of the Russian national side] – he’s my former coach.
A lot of ex-rugby players tend to tour the Sevens circuit. Is this what you’re doing now? Sevens is quite new to me – I just started to get involved in it at the tail end of last season. It’s amazing how the sport has grown over the years – the tournaments are everywhere. I’ve heard a lot about Dubai from the England players, because they love it out here.
You were a Rugby World Cup winner with England back in 2003, but after England’s dismal performance in the 2011 World Cup, the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) is in a bit of a mess. What’s your view on the situation? [Laughs] Yes, it’s a mess. The RFU is in a right old state, but they’re getting such a hard time in the media – and rightly so, because there have been a lot of things that have happened that aren’t right. But this aside, there are still a lot of positives in the English game: we won the Six Nations last year and there are a lot of good young players coming through. But England is hosting the next World Cup, so it’s in everybody’s best interests to get things sorted out.
So you don’t have any aspirations to take the England manager’s job one day? Certainly not! At the moment I’m more than happy working as a rugby ambassador. To be honest, I just couldn’t stand the pressure.
Do you fancy following your mate Apollo’s footsteps and coming to work in Dubai? This is my fourth visit now, and I really enjoy it, but I’m happy doing what I do for now. Jason Robinson works as the HSBC Middle East Rugby Ambassador. To find out more, see www.jasonrobinson.co.uk.