He has represented both codes at the highest levels and has been an influence to many a player attempting to emulate his success, and his unique style of play.
Two players, who have been compared more than most to “Billy Whizz” as he is known, are Kyle Eastmond and Lewis Tierney who have both made debuts of differing proportions over the last couple of weeks.
In Buenos Aires, at the famous Estadio Jose Amalfitani, home of Valez Sarsfield football club, Eastmond made his first start for the full England Rugby Union side, in a comfortable win for a side weakened by Lions call ups.
Granted, Argentina were not at full strength either, but two convincing wins for Stuart Lancaster’s men in this part of the world is no mean feat, and while there were several impressive performances, Eastmond’s display will have been a huge plus point for the England coach.
Having scored a try in the first game he donned the red rose shirt against the Barbarians, and impressed after coming on as a sub in the opening game against the Pumas, Eastmond went about his first start at centre with purpose, resulting in a sensational solo try and a hand in several of the other English tries scored in the 51-26 win.
After an impressive performance, and his growing stature in the 15 a side code, comparisons with Robinson will always be prevalent, and in many cases with good justification.
Having broken into the St.Helens Super League side as a precocious 17 year old talent, his looks and the style of running and play in general landed him with the mantle of “the next Jason Robinson.” This has since been exacerbated following Eastmond’s move from League to Union, and into the England set up.
He has taken longer to find his feet playing for Bath, and the move from Stand Off in League, to Centre in Union has raised more than a few eyebrows, mainly due to his size. Any doubt about his defence were swiftly put to bed, culminating in the impressive try line tackling which saw Argentina repelled in the first game.
The question England and Bath fans will now be asking themselves, with St.Helens fans looking on with more than a passing interest is if Eastmond can go on and emulate some of Robinson’s feats in the 15 Man game and establish himself in the international set up.
The comparisons will keep on coming and hopefully the success which Robinson also had. There is no doubt Eastmond has talent, but just how far can that talent take him?
The comparisons levelled between Robinson and Lewis Tierney are, however inevitable. Tierney is Robinson’s eldest son, and having joined his Dad’s old club made his Wigan Warriors debut at full back in a narrow victory over the Widnes Vikings.
Tierney has a lot to live up to being his father's son, and like many other sons of famous sporting fathers, expectations will in most cases be unrealistic. Having made his debut in a side so full of confidence and on such a winning run, Tierney will hope to get an extended run in the side.
The presence of England star Sam Tomkins as the present incumbent of the Wigan full back shirt will no doubt limit the number of appearances which he can make this season but a winning, try scoring debut and plaudits on an impressive performance is the ideal way to start what many hope to be a career which could rival his fathers achievements.
As comparisons go, being compared to a great like Jason Robinson is no bad thing, and both these young players who have so much Rugby still to play will want to emulate him as much as possible. Obviously, Eastmond is further along in his career, and while he has had the odd controversial moment, there is nothing to show on current evidence he won’t make a success of his union career.
The jury is still out on Tierney, who while he has turned in some impressive performances in the Warriors under 19 side, needs big game experience and Super League starts for the comparisons to carry any weight. His game time will depend very much on the fitness of the Wigan back line, and of Tomkins in particular.
As respective debuts go though, both players will class them as successes, and will be looking to enhance their careers and their reputations with much more of the same. At the same time, the comparisons made with Billy Whizz while daunting could be the inspiration to succeed.
image: © David Coldrey