Olly Robinson is hungry to be fit and firing ahead of his third season at Wales’ Capital Region, following a recent shoulder surgery.
The back row has become a firm favourite on the Cardiff Arms Park terrace since his initial loan move from Bristol during 2017/18, and capped his debut campaign with a man of the match performance in the Challenge Cup final victory over Gloucester in Bilbao.
The 27-year-old capped off another impressive campaign in May, by picking up the Cardiff Blues Players’ Player of the Season and earning the inaugural Guinness PRO14 Turnover King for achieving the most turnovers throughout the campaign.
Having missed out on Heineken Champions Cup qualification, Robinson insists the close-knit Cardiff Blues squad are determined to make up for lost ground, and admits he is thriving during his time at the Welsh capital.
“It’s been really refreshing for me since joining Cardiff Blues, and I can’t speak highly enough of the boys, and they all want you to succeed when you’re on the pitch,” said the openside flanker.
“There’s a real competitiveness amongst everyone and a determination to be selected, but whoever goes out on the pitch on the weekend, the rest of the squad want you to succeed and play well.
“I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time by playing here, and life is good.
“I’ve recently had an operation, which was a labrum repair on my shoulder, as it’s been something that’s been troubling me for a couple of seasons.
“The procedure went well, so my focus now is working hard on my rehab. I’m looking forward to having another good pre-season under my belt and be fit and firing ahead of the new season.
“We were really gutted that we didn’t kick on and manage to finish the campaign in a way that our mid-season form really deserved.
“It probably ultimately came down to our own errors as to why we’re not in a position we want to be right now.
“Every one is hurting, but our focus now turns to having an opportunity to put it right next season.
“I was proud of the awards I picked up towards the end-of-season, particularly the Players’ Player of the Season as it was voted by my team-mates.
“It’s a real honour because these are the guys that you step on the pitch with and you play for. They’re the ones you want to impress the most.
“We could’ve had any one of six Cardiff Blues boys picking up the Guinness PRO14 Turnover King award which is a testament to the work we’ve done in that area.”
Scarlets’ robust forward, Will Boyde, is set to add to the depth of back row talent at the Arms Park next season, joining the likes of Robinson, Nick Williams, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins, Josh Turnbull and last season’s breakthrough stars, Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham.
Talisman number eight, Williams, has also penned a new deal to extend his stay with Wales’ Capital Region, and Robinson is delighted to see that the influence of the former Junior All Black on the squad will continue, heading into 2019/20.
“You never have to look too far for someone to make a big play when you’ve got Nick on the pitch. Whether that’s a big tackle, or a big carry or even a soft pass,” explained the back row.
“When you call for the ball from Nick, he’s likely to find a way of getting it to you.
“He’s the one person, when you play against him as an opposition, you really don’t want to tackle him. It’s great to have someone like that in the side.
“He sets standard and can really pick you up on the team, and you really want to compete with what he’s doing out there.
“He’s capable of creating moments which can turn games on their head and he can also come in with three turnovers in a game, which is brilliant.”
World Rugby’s showpiece international event - the 2019 Rugby World Cup - will take place in Japan later this year.
With allegiances to the Scottish, English and Welsh camps, Robinson remained diplomatic when asked who he’d be rooting for, but he admits he’s looking forward to another blockbuster tournament.
“I think I’ll be rooting on rugby,” joked Robinson, “but in seriousness, it’s hard to look past New Zealand, as they’ve probably been the best team in the world for a number of years.
“They’ll be used to playing in a similar-ish time zone to Japan and it will be difficult for anyone to beat them.
“But the beauty of the World Cup is, when it comes down to the knockout stages, anyone can beat anyone.
“Wales have a great shot, while England have a tough group to get out of, especially with Argentina peaking at World Cups and you never know what you’re going to get from France.
“I’m very much looking forward to watching all the Cardiff Blues boys taking part and firing.”