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Rugby Union

Inspirational Robinson in seventy heaven

Rather appropriately, there was worship in the air at Twickenham yesterday.

Rather appropriately, there was worship in the air at Twickenham yesterday.

Jason Robinson had prayed for guidance before agreeing to be England's stand-in captain, but his public offered unquestioning adoration as their new leader ran in a hat-trick in a 70-0 win over Canada. "I thought Jason had a tremendous game," said England's new head coach, Andy Robinson. "He was inspirational in the way he played."

England scored six tries in either half, through Robinson's three, two from both Mark Cueto and Josh Lewsey and Mike Tindall, Charlie Hodgson, Will Greenwood, Lewis Moody and Hugh Vyvyan. Hodgson and Henry Paul shared five conversions. The cheers from a half-full ground whenever Robinson came anywhere near the ball illustrated the afternoon's priorities.

The result was immaterial - despite an offer from their sponsors of $100,000 to win, Canada's fringe professionals and floor-layers never stood a chance of even scoring - and England's performance was never going to be too relevant to sterner Tests to come. But if Robinson shows half the speed, poise, aggression and ability, often gloriously, to keep the ball alive in the tackle that he showed here against South Africa next week, his canonisation by the Twickenham throng will be complete.

England will face a wounded Springbok side on Saturday after Jake White's team lost 17-12 to a Ronan O'Gara-inspired Ireland at Lansdowne Road. Having seen their much-touted Grand Slam ambitions dashed in the Dublin dusk, the South Africans' reaction will be as fascinating as England's performance against their first serious opposition of this campaign.

The most eagerly awaited match of the season so far is up for grabs.