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Interview: England World Cup winner Jason Robinson

Sports Mole speaks to former England international Jason Robinson ahead of Rugby Aid and this month's Rugby World Cup.

It promises to be a big few weeks for fans of rugby union in this country, with the start of the World Cup now only two weeks away.

However, before that, tomorrow evening the Twickenham Stoop will play host to Rugby Aid as an England team made up of former professionals, celebrities and members of the armed forces take on a selection from the rest of the world.

The match, which is an identical concept to Soccer Aid, will be in aid of the charity Rugby For Heroes, of which ex-England international Mike Tindall is patron.

Someone else that will be dusting off his boots to feature in the game is Jason Robinson and Sports Mole caught up with the 2003 World Cup winner to talk about the event, as well as having a look ahead to England's chances of success on home soil.

With the Rugby Aid game now just over 24 hours away, what's it like to be involved?

"It's brilliant. It's the first time that we've done something like this in rugby - getting the celebrities involved. We've got guys like Louie Spence, we've got one of the world's strongest men in Terry Hollands, there's JB Gill and Jamie Laing as well. The people involved are so enthusiastic about it and it's great that we can all pull together. There's some military guys in there as well and it's all for a great cause.

"We are forever indebted to our military personnel for what they do and this is way of showing our support and thanks. We're looking forward to it, hopefully we'll get a good crowd in and we'll put on a good game."

Jason Robinson grins from ear to ear© C1 Photography

What has training been like? There has no doubt been a mixture of abilities on show.

"It's been interesting. There are some that know a bit about the game and some don't know an awful lot. It's all been about pulling together and helping people to learn some of the rules. There are some that have played before, so they cannot wait to get stuck in. We're not doing too much physicality at the moment, that is being saved for the game tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how it goes. It's one thing doing Soccer Aid when there isn't much contact, but there has to be physicality in rugby."

Out of the celebrities, has anyone surprised you by how good they are?

"There's a lot of guys who have got some good touches. In yesterday's session, Louie Spence took the warm-up and he was doing all these stretches that nobody could replicate! Guys on our side like Jamie Laing and Gaz off Geordie Shore, those two were flying about everywhere and were so full of energy. JB Gill has got some pace as well. It will be good to see how they react to the game."

And what about yourself? How's the fitness? Will we be seeing any of that trademark acceleration and sidesteps?

"I did retire eight years ago! Hopefully there's something still in there. I'll be doing what I can. Hopefully I'll have a little bit of whiz left in me and the legs. It will be good to be involved. Tomorrow is all about putting on a competitive game and hopefully I can contribute to that."

Of course, the Rugby World Cup is now fast approaching. Does the fact that England are the host nation make it that extra bit special?

"It's massive. I played in three World Cups, but to play in one on home soil is special. It's something every player would love to do, but not many would get the opportunity. The support for the guys will be fantastic and they need to put in the performances to build upon that support. It's all about building momentum.

England's Jason Robinson dives over to score a try against Australia during the final of the World Cup on November 22, 2003© Getty Images

"We saw in 2003 just how much the support meant to us. We had a lot of support out in Australia, but then we came home, there were millions of people that we had affected and hadn't even realised. If England can do well and be successful, it will be fantastic for the game and the legacy of rugby in this country."

The majority of bookmakers have made England the second favourites. Is that about right?

"Possibly, but there's probably six teams that can beat each other. You look at the games that have been played over the last five weeks - Argentina beat South Africa, Australia beat New Zealand, Wales beat Ireland and France beat England. It's all about what happens on the day.

"Anything can happen, but hopefully playing at Twickenham will inspire England to get some good results. We need to win the pool, which is going to be tough in itself. But, winning it gives us an easier run to get to the World Cup final. Finishing second would give them a harder ride."

You mentioned the fans earlier. We've seen the support given to the men's cricket team recently in The Ashes and the women at the World Cup in Canada earlier this summer. How big a role can the public play over the next few weeks?

"They can play a massive role. The players don't want to play in empty stadiums for a start. Sometimes in games, just hearing that roar of the crowd when you're defending your own line, that can help to keep the attack out - it makes a massive difference to the players. That's why home advantage will hopefully mean a lot to the players, as well as having their family and friends there. It's a great opportunity for them. We made history in 2003 and now they have an opportunity to do it in 2015.

One player you'll no doubt be keeping a close eye on is Anthony Watson, given that he plays in the same position as you did. He said recently that he is trying to model his game on what you, so how much of an asset is he to the team?

"He's doing really well. Every game he plays he seems to be getting better and better. He's a great attacking threat and that is what is needed at a World Cup. When the games hit a bit of a stalemate, you need someone that is able to pull something out of the bag and he can do that. He's got great acceleration and is on fire right now, so hopefully we'll see a lot more of it at the World Cup."

Rugby Aid kicks off at the Twickenham Stoop at 7.45pm on Friday, September 4. Tickets are £20 and available to buy via www.tickets.quins.co.uk or on the night with all proceeds going to Rugby For Heroes, which raises funds and awareness through the sport of rugby to support military personnel. Rugby Aid is also exclusively live on BT Sport 1 from 7pm.

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