Jason Robinson has revealed that he once considered attempting suicide after being arrested for affray, assault and criminal damage during the troubled early phase of his career.
Robinson, who scored for England in the 2003 World Cup final victory against Australia and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2001 and 2005, said the incident occurred during his early days at Wigan Warriors rugby league club, a period of his life that was marked by heavy drinking sessions.
“I can remember just sat in my bedroom with an old knife, an old meat cleaver,” Robinson recalls in a documentary in the Sports Life Stories series, which will be broadcast on ITV4 at 10pm on Tuesday. “I didn’t want life to go on in this way. That night when I contemplated doing it, I wept like a baby. Probably of all the times in my life that I needed my father it was then.”
Robinson endured a tough childhood in the Leeds estate of Harehills – he was abandoned by his natural father and his mother, a cleaner, suffered beatings by his stepfather. “I witnessed loads of things growing up, mini riots, I remember cars screeching around, handbrake turning, people picking up bricks [and] throwing them at each other,” Robinson adds.
It was not until he turned to Christianity through his friend and Wigan team-mate Va’aiga Tuigamala that Robinson was able to turn his life around. “Had it not been for him, coming into the environment I was in and putting a different slant on it I certainly wouldn’t have the hope that I’ve got now,” Robinson added. “And hope is something that people can’t take away.”
Robinson also speaks of the emotional first encounter with his natural father, which happened when he was 34, after he had decided that he wanted to track him down. “I would have loved for my father to have been to a game – challenge cups, rugby league, England, Great Britain.
“You know, my father was never at one of the games. While I buried it for a long time, every now and again it would come up and I was just ... I was scared of rejection. It was only after my playing days that I got some help with it, to try to understand what life may have been like for him.
“I can remember walking up stairs and meeting him at the door, and we just hugged, and it was just amazing really. Even though I didn’t know him, it was my dad. And I wept.
“There are lots of things I could have said to him. There are lots of questions I still have unanswered. But I forgive him. And I forgive him because he’s my dad. I can move on, and for 34 years, I couldn’t. So it was just one of those experiences that I’ll never forget, and I was so crippled by, even though I couldn’t admit it. But at the same time, meeting him has just set me free.”
The documentary also reveals the build-up to his decision to switch codes to rugby union in 2000 following a meeting with the then England coach Sir Clive Woodward.
“It was all very secretive to be honest, I was meeting various players in service stations, it was quite funny despite the fact it shouldn’t have been,” Woodward recalls. “I remember meeting him and what I was impressed by was that neither of us spoke money, neither of us mentioned a pound.”
In the end, Leinster did what they had to do to win. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't even particularly good, but by maintaining their discipline and erring on the side of caution in possession, Leinster were just too cute for their English opponents.