Robinson learns from Gregory the great

When Wigan qualified for today's Grand Final by beating Leeds, there was one player who was reluctant to celebrate.

It was not some jaded old campaigner who had seen it all before, but a 19-year-old who had just secured a place in his first major final. The trouble was that Luke Robinson knew he had not played particularly well and was full of self-reproach.

"I'm pretty critical of the way I play," he says. "If I'm not on top of my game, I always get on at myself and I just felt I hadn't done myself justice. Mind you, if we'd lost, then I'd really have been down in the dumps."

Overall, Robinson has had little to be down in the dumps about during his first full season in Wigan's first team squad. When he has not been starting matches in place of the injured Adrian Lam - as he will be today - he has often come off the bench to make a dramatic impact on games.

A sparkling hat-trick against St Helens in June might have been his personal highlight, but the way he performed generally has seen him compared with the greatest Wigan scrum-half of the modern era - Andy Gregory.

"It's nice when people compare you with someone that great, but it's sometimes embarrassing, because I'm not half as good as him at the moment," he says. "If I can follow in his footsteps, that will do me."

Robinson starts with some great advantages for a scrum-half; he has the irrepressible personality that has characterised the best of the breed, before Gregory and after.

Wigan's youth development manager, Brian Foley, remembers him arriving from Halifax as a 13-year-old and looking as though he might be out of his depth among older and bigger local lads. He had a word with him to the effect that he shouldn't worry, because if he worked hard, he could be as good as them.

"Oh no, Brian," he said, perking up instantly. "I'm going to be better than that."

Tonight, he must try to be better than the incumbent Great Britain scrum-half, Paul Deacon, who will be lining up opposite him for Bradford.

"You can't be your country's number seven without being a great player and he's obviously a key player in Bradford's team. His long kicking game is fantastic. I think that's his biggest asset. I don't know of anyone with as good a kicking game."

Robinson has worked hard on that side of his own game, but he has also shown the benefit of extra sprint training early in the year, which has given him a little more explosive pace. He might not be as devastatingly quick as Leeds' Rob Burrow, for instance, but his reading of play is already that of a much more experienced player.

One thing he has already overcome is his pre-match nerves. "I used to be sick before amateur matches, but I seem to have got over that now, because I don't suffer from nerves any more. It's going to be a big occasion at Old Trafford and the team that wins will be the team that controls its emotions."

It will be biggest occasion in his career so far, but Robinson believes that the experience of playing and winning for Great Britain's Under-18s against the Australians last year - under the same coach, Mike Gregory - will have helped to prepare him.

"He seems to bring the best out of me," he says of Gregory. "He has a lot of belief in us young players and, when your coach has confidence in you, it gives you confidence in yourself."

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