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Robinson savours memories of Maori All Blacks tour

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Sportal.co.nz     14 Feb 2014     Getty Images

While struggling with a hip injury that is likely to curtail his rugby exposure this year, the prospective fullback had no lack of enthusiasm talking about the Maori All Blacks tour.

Robinson admitted to being blown away by his first visit to North America and said Toronto in Canada had been a great city to visit. It had been cold but most enjoyable.

The lack of in-depth rugby knowledge meant many Canadians were unable to differentiate between the All Blacks, who they immediately thought of when they saw the silver fern, and the Maori All Blacks.

Robinson said the players soon tired of explaining the difference and just went with the flow.

"But they've got a lot of people who are really interested in rugby over there and while it is a small percentage they are keen," he said.

And the greatest public interest was in the haka.

"That was the biggest thing. We were haka-ing all the time. They tried to manage it so we weren't doing hakes every time we went out into the public but when people realised they were around the Maori All Blacks who do a really mean haka that was all they wanted to see," he said.

The same reaction occurred on the second half of the trip in the United States.

On the playing side he said both games had been tough, with the Canadian game made all the more difficult as a result of the cold conditions which made it hard getting air into the lungs.

"But Canada rugby has come a long way and they played some really good footy and then we went across to America, and those guys…they're a sleeping giant.

"Obviously they have got such a large population but if they actually put a lot of time and effort into their rugby they could be really successful. And that was a close game, we probably only won that in the last 10 minutes," he said.

As a result Robinson felt there was a great place for such tours by the Maori. It was part of New Zealand and while there were some who felt others were denied chances of selection but the same principle could be applied to a New Zealand A team to allow those players chances of a higher level.

But on a more immediate situation Robinson faces a battle once able to resume competitive play because of the sheer weight of numbers in the Chiefs' rearguard.

"Obviously, there's myself, Tom Marshall, Mils [Muliaina] coming back, you've got Tim Nanai-Williams, you've got Andrew Horrell, Gareth Anscombe. [They're] guys who can play a lot of other positions but who are all really good fullbacks.

"That's probably what's good about the Chiefs, there's a lot of competition for spots and it gets the best out of every player so the best guys are getting picked each week," he said.

Being the two-time defending champion was a tough thought, Robinson said, but it was finding ways of staying ahead of the opposition that was probably hardest.

"We've got coaches who put in a lot of hours in front of laptops trying to get the small things done really well and making us have that edge so that's probably the hardest thing - trying to stay on top.

"All the external pressure that comes from everyone else, that's just what comes with footy and obviously when you're a championship side everyone is going to come at you so we've soaked it up and hopefully we can do the same this year," he said.