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Can Wilkinson guide England to another World Cup final?

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Bryn Palmer | 17:15 UK time, Monday, 5 September 2011

With the World Cup finally upon us, Jonny Wilkinson is once more in his element.

Given his long history of orthopaedic calamities, it seems slightly miraculous he is still around at all.

And yet here he is, 12 years after his first World Cup, eight years on from the swing of his right boot in Sydney that changed his life forever, preparing for his fourth global tournament.

If that puts him in rare company (only 11 others have played in four or more), Wilkinson is not in New Zealand to make up the numbers, even if when it comes to World Cups, he has plenty of them in his locker (most overall points, most penalties, most drop-goals in the tournament's history).

The remarkable thing about his latest incarnation is that, at 32, not only is he in the rudest health of his rugby life, but once again he is the man shouldering England's hopes of success.

Six months ago Wilkinson was ruminating on his new role as the team's 'closer'. He had played second fiddle to his old protégé Toby Flood at fly-half for the previous year, but his experience was still in demand as the guy who could come off the bench and put the game to bed.

But after Flood's shaky displays in the Six Nations finale in Dublin and the second World Cup warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff, manager Martin Johnson reverted to Wilkinson for England's final outing before the tournament, a 20-9 victory over Ireland back in the Irish capital.

While he didn't play with complete authority that day, his experience of tense World Cup occasions and ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over mean he is set to start at number 10 in the team's opening match against Argentina on Saturday.

Jonny Wilkinson

Wilkinson is the only man to have scored points in two World Cup finals. Photo: Getty Images

As Johnson has reiterated several times over the course of the last month: "There's always a case for starting with Jonny Wilkinson.

"No matter how many Tests he's played, no matter what he's achieved, Jonny is still the one out there working harder than anyone in an effort to be a better player."

Wilkinson's confidant and personal trainer Steve Black raised a few eyebrows in 2008 when he said the fly-half wouldn't reach his physical peak until he was 32 or 33, and could play until he was 40.

That doesn't seem such a fanciful idea now. Despite a dozen major injuries, he was top of the fitness charts at England's summer camp, out-running the rest of the squad in shuttle runs over 40 metres.

"He is remarkable," said wing Chris Ashton, eight years Wilkinson's junior. "Jonny's ahead of everybody on the speed tests by about 10 seconds. I don't know how he does it because he's not that quick."

Certainly swapping Newcastle in the north-east of England for Toulon on the south coast of France two years ago appears to have refreshed Wilkinson, physically and mentally.

"Relatively speaking, I would like to think I am better than I have ever been," he said before departing for New Zealand.

"I can't say enough about how fortunate I am to be in this position," he told BBC Sport. "I am very privileged. I have had a lot of injuries but for some reason I always manage to be there or thereabouts when this World Cup period comes around.

"The experience and what I have taken from each one have undoubtedly been important blocks in the foundation of my career and my life in general. Hopefully the way I have responded at them shows what they mean to me."

Wilkinson was only 10 caps into his Test career when he went to his first World Cup in 1999. He endured being dropped for the first time, Clive Woodward preferring the more experienced Paul Grayson for the quarter-final against South Africa in Paris when Jannie De Beer drop-kicked England out of the tournament.

Four years on, he was indisputably the man, bringing seven weeks of extreme personal pressure and tension to an end when his right-footed drop-goal with 26 seconds left of extra-time finally ended Australia's resistance and secured England World Cup victory.

Incredibly, such was the unrelenting misfortune that befell Wilkinson over the following three years, he didn't play for his country again until early 2007, scoring 27 points in a remarkable comeback against Scotland in the Six Nations, having missed England's previous 30 Tests.

Later that year at the World Cup, his injury curse struck again days before England's opening game against the USA.

"I don't think people understood how serious it was," recalled team-mate Mike Catt. "His ankle was like a football."

But after sitting out that match and the 36-0 drubbing by South Africa that followed, he returned in the nick of time to steer England out of the group with wins over Samoa and Tonga, and through memorable knock-out victories over Australia and hosts France.

"I said to Wilko before the France match, 'You were born to win games like this'" Catt added.

If England overcome Argentina on Saturday and emerge as group winners, France and Australia may again provide the knock-out barriers in their path to a possible record third successive final.

The good news for English supporters is that when Wilkinson looks around the current squad, he sees a group of players ready to take that rollercoaster ride to the end of another World Cup.

"I understand a little bit about what you need to go to these tournaments and deal with the pressure," he added.

"You know when it comes to it you will have very good teams battling it out to see who can hold on long enough to go all the way. Looking around this squad, we should have confidence that we can be among that group. And when you are in that group, anything is possible."

Especially if Jonathan Peter Wilkinson is in your side.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Isn't it great that in the four years since the last World Cup we've had many false dawns, a pretty awful recorded and tried so desperately to change the why we of play. But in reality after all this we will revert to type for the finals and play the way we know. Wilkinson will start and dictate the play. We will look to dominate with the forwards and when the time is right Wilkinson will deploy our talented back three. With Wilkinson in at 10 I see us getting to the final in a rather unglamorous workman like way. With Flood at 10 I see us producing more moments of flair, the pulse racing a little more but ultimate disappointment. I know what I'd prefer to see.

  • Comment number 2.

    As an England supporter I always feel a bit more secure when I see "10 Wilkinson" on the team sheet. I sincerely hope he's still around and performing well for some time to come.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a Welshman, Jonny has been a thorn in our sides for many a year. However, having completed a charity cycle ride at Newcastle whilst he was still playing there, he proved to be not only extremely generous with his time, but generally a really nice chap.

    I really hope he is at 10 for England during the RWC, he does keep the points ticking over for the lillywhites and I wish him all the best (unless of course it is an England v. Wales final lmao)

  • Comment number 4.

    Never Leave England Without a Jonny!

    Come on England!!! With all the massive Olympics hype being thrown at us these days and the fanfare over the start of the new EPL, I like how the RWC has kinda sneaked up on me a little bit more, and now its suddenly almost upon us!

    Swing Loooooooooooooooooooow sweet Chaaaariot!

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with Charlie Cheesecake above. I always feel more confident of an England winning display if Wilkinson's in the side. If it wasnt for all his injuries he'd be miles ahead of Dan Carter on the all time points list. Might not be the most dynamic but he puts points on the board and points mean prizes!

  • Comment number 6.

    It is indeed always massively reassuring to see Wilko at 10 for England; he may not be quite the player he was - the metronomic goal-kicking stutters now from time to time, and the tackles don't always come off - but he's reliable and it's wonderful to have him around while the Number 10 succession is sorted out.

    I was at Twickenham on his comeback game against Scotland in January 2007, after we'd been through the jittery Charlie Hodgson period. Almost from the off it was Wilko's game-management which impressed, ensuring every visit to the enemy 22 yielded at least a penalty or a drop goal. The sense of relief and nostalgia was palpable.

    Flood may yet rediscover his game head, Cipriani may mature into the player we know he can be, and Owen Farrell may even be Wilko II. But meanwhile treasure each England game left in Wliko's locker like the last drop of a special vintage. I don't think we'll fully appreciate him until he's retired.

  • Comment number 7.

    He has come in to form by being a good kicker and not as bad as the others. His kicking out of hand is now awful and he has not been able to get the back line moving on any occasion in the last eight years.
    He is in the team as it fits the tactics that Johnson seems to want to play by. Get as many 'juiced-up' players on the pitch and run slow and straight.

  • Comment number 8.

    there is little doubt that Wilko has again become critical to England's hopes...amazing after he was dropped after Scotland in 2010. That looked like the slow descent towards the end of his England career, but there is an immutable rule in Rugby...never write the man off, he has amazing powers of recovery and resilience, both physically and mentally. Amazing to see Wilko top the charts for the endurance runs...(you'd hope it would be one of the back-row but there you go).

    Johnson's big challenge now (his previous biggest was to get selection right for the 30 and most agree that he probably didn't) is to manage Wilkinson in the right way for the tournament. This surely means that Flood starts the Georgia and Rom games, with Jonny on the bench, itself an unfortunate byproduct of taking only 2 specialist 10's and no real back-up in Flutey. Keeping Jonny fit and healthy is critical for England's chances generally, but essential with so little back-up. Incredible to think that if Jonny was injured for a period of the tournament (but not invalided out) that we would go with Flood starting, backed up by the most part-time of part-time 10s in Wigglesworth. Utter madness, and a by-product of Johnson's bizarre fixation with Shontayne Hapless...seeing Flutey play as well as he did this weekend simply reinforced how dumb it was not to take him as 2nd choice 12 (if Tindall is now 1st choice) and as 3rd choice 10. Much as we all pray that Jonny will go through the whole tournament unscathed, there has to be a high probability he gets injured at some point. Johnson's pig-headedness and lack of foresight will come back to haunt him then....

  • Comment number 9.

    Holy Hooker (No.6) cracking comment, and too right, couldn't agree more.

  • Comment number 10.

    With Johnny at 10 you always feel that England can win a 1 off match. 20 mins to go 15 points down and all it takes is for him to kick a couple of penalty's and all of a sudden it's 15 mins to go and 9 points and the opposition start to crack.

    The guy may not have the flair of Francoise Trihn Duc or James Hook, but he knows how to play knock out rugby better than any other 10 in the world, because he thrives under pressure. That is something that as good as he is Dan Carter is uncapable of.

    For the record I have been saying for ages that we shouldn't of been wasting our time with Hape and I do hope that he gets injured in training so we can take Flutey out as 12/10 cover. Also still not really sure why we need 5 props, Sheridan looked good against Ireland the other weekend.

  • Comment number 11.

    No.8 - Who would you have instead of Wilko

    I think Wilko is our only chance of getting anywhere in this tournament because teams know how to play against Flood. If put under pressure he just goes missing and loses control of the game as shown against Ireland and Scotland in the 6N. I think Wilko is better at using the centres and I find too often we have the wrong tactics. You watch Aus or NZ you see that the wings will sometimes come in field on a set play. Our wingers never do this and it's a shame. I know it's not down to the wingers and more down to the coaching because Ashton and Foden are used a lot more for Northampton.

    I'm hoping MJ drops the penalty giving away machine Easter. The most over rated player ever and by far the worst no.8 out of the 6N teams. He's slow and barely ever breaks the gain line. It was great to see Haskell play well in that position during the warm ups. So many of our breaks and attacks came off Haskell's runs.

  • Comment number 12.

    It certainly amazes me. I'd have put every penny I own on Jonny not making it back up to this level, he seemed to have the injury curse good and proper.

    Making it back as a starter, perhaps. But consistantly so, and at this level of fitness? It would be like Michael Owen reverting back to his 18-year-old speed.

  • Comment number 13.

    I was gutted that he picked up many injuries after 2003, it's almost like the pressure of the World Cup comming off his shoulders made his body fall apart!

    I definitely feel happier about England's chances when he is in the side, it would be incredible if he made it to five World Cups too! I still remember his first cap, looking like a kid in the baggy England jersey. Definitely an English rugby legend.

  • Comment number 14.

    We Kiwi's may not care much for Jonny's playing style, but he is a player we respect for his commitment and professionalism. However that won't be enough to get you to the final this time :-)

  • Comment number 15.

    Jonny Wilkinson a genuine Englsh sporting talisman and a consumated professional.

    Mkes you proud to be English for a change...

  • Comment number 16.

    @ # 11
    The reason he plays Easter at 8 is simple. He's the best at dealing with the ball at the back of the scrum. Haskell is ok if we're going forward, but if the scrum is on the back foot or static he isn't good enough to look after the ball or clear up. Look at the awful pass he gave against Wales from the back of the scrum and how he couldn't control the ball against Ireland when we went backwards.

    Easter I grant you is not as dynamic going forward, but he is a solid all-round 8 and that actually is more important sometimes than having a guy who is all flamboyance but no control. It is a style over substance arguement and people forget/don't realise/have no understanding of (delete as appropriate) what else Easter does around the park. Also he is a natural leader who has a calm head and good hands, essential in a pressure situation.

    Easter to earn the victory, Haskell to rub salt into the wounds when we're dominant.

  • Comment number 17.

    The Holy Hooker above has got it about right. I thought he had faded and then that comeback game against Scotland - he scored a full house, unbelievable. Still a massive defender (probably the best defensive No 10 in World Rugby - ever!) It's his unflappable calm (not that he has always been like that) that steadies the ship. I just hugely admire him as a person, for his commitment and courage. Flood is good, but ....., and we do need someone coming up through the ranks, maybe Farrell is the boy, Maybe he can have a shout come Six Nations time. I also agree with the comment about leaving Flutey behind, maybe Hape should have stayed. It must be a nightmare making a selection for a tournament like this, and presumably if someone gets injured, we can fly out a replacement, but not the same as a 'band of brothers' working together. I hope we can get to the semi finals and see how after that. New Zealand deserve to win, but having watched how France halted their progress twice in previous RWC's, who knows what might happen - all part of the excitement!!

  • Comment number 18.

    I predicted in 2003 that JW would likely never recover enough to play international rugby again, and I thought I'd been proved correct during the abortive RWC winners 2003 Reunion Lions tour of NZ in 2005 where he struggled.

    I'm delighted to have been proved wrong as despite being a chippy Scot, I can see that Wilkinson is a player that defines the word professional and the international rugby world was poorer for his absence. I just hope he can't find his A game against Scotland :)

  • Comment number 19.

    Bryn - After Tuilagi's first appearance in an England shirt a few of us argued on your blog that he should be starting for England in the World Cup, especially considering his ability to provide some penetration in the backline and the paucity of the available options. You argued that he is too inexperienced to start in a big tournament and should be coming off the bench. Have you changed your mind or do you still honestly think Hape and Tindall are the best option?

  • Comment number 20.

    This world cup is wide open. As an expat in NZ I've watched some of the best rugby I've ever seen between 2008 and 2010 from the NPC, Super Rugby and the AB's -however defeats against South Africa (albeit with mostly a second string side) and a marginal loss against the Wallabies has the NZ Media already asking 'what's gone wrong?' Answer nothing!. A great time to be in NZ and the eyes of the world are now on NZ for all the right reasons.Let battle commence!

  • Comment number 21.

    No. 11 - you misread me...I'd definitely have Jonny at 10 as first choice for the RWC, unless Flood really finds his mojo. In fact I wish Johnson had tried Jonny-Flood-Tuilagi as 10-12-13 against Ireland, having decided not to bring Flutey, but it's probably way too late for that now, unless he is forced to by circumstance. He should have picked Flutey over Hapless from the beginning...better IC, better cover.

  • Comment number 22.

    Wilko has certainly worked hard to reclaim the fly half berth. I remember that awful game against Scotland in 2010. After that I thought it might be the last time we see Jonny as a regular starter. But the way he has reinvented himself at Toulon and also the way in which he has become "the closer" for England has impressed me. With Flood's poor form, he has taken the opportunity to reclaim the 10 starting shirt.

    As for Flood, I think he's still got the ability to change games for England. We may even see (depending on the situation) a Flood/Wilkinson 10/12 combination, with Flood coming off the bench. Flood can reclaim his starting place, but now both him and Wilkinson will work even harder for it.

  • Comment number 23.

    #11 bit surprised at your comments regarding our wing play, have you forgotten what Ashton was doing when he burst on the scene. Following Flood and the centres through the mini breaks and sat on their shoulder for the offload. Just go back to the Italy game in the 6 Nations to see.

    The problem we've had since that is injuries to Ashton and Youngs whose quick feed is crucial, and Flood being found out. But if Ashton can rediscover that form and pick up the offloads he can score tries. With Tuilagi looking like a line breaker you'd hope that'd be the case.

  • Comment number 24.

    Just to add. Hape should've been left out for Flutey. Flutey would've provided cover at 10 and is also a better option at 12. Tindall is now probably the first choice 12 suggest we could have taken Flutey adn left Hape behind.

  • Comment number 25.

    I am very glad to have Wilkinson at fly-half instead of Flood. He will never again hit the heights seen from 1999-2003, but it's easy to forget just how great he was back then, and the Wilko we see today is still better than a Hodgson or even an Andrew.

    Our half-back combo is probably the only world-class thing about this team. But can we really expect to go deep into the tournament with question marks throughout the pack and a shocking paucity of talented centres?

  • Comment number 26.

    "If England overcome Argentina on Saturday and emerge as group winners" - yeah, it's that easy, isn't it? England haven't beaten Scotland outside of Murrayfield since 2004 so it's a walk in the park.

    Would have thought Bryn would be writing on Welsh ambitions for this World Cup, namely getting out of their group (chances - slim) rather than fluffing an England squad held in high esteem only by the media and the England manager.

    As an optimistic Scot (yes, generally unjustifiably so) I have every hope Johnson will maintain his pigheaded stance of picking Youngs, Flood, Tindall and Moody in his starting XV for our match. The first two have been embarrassingly overhyped for 2011 while the latter two would make very few starting XVs in the tournament - Tindall, fair enough, might make Scotland's as we have precisely no centres.

    Anyway, onwards English soldiers! And by English, I mean Tuilagi, Hape, Simpson, Armitage, Hartley, Palmer, Stevens and Corbisiero . . . Jerusalem singing red rose lovers one and all (honourable mentions to Flutey, Fourie and Botha)!! A true rainbow nation.

  • Comment number 27.

    21. At 11:00 6th Sep 2011, Waspish9 wrote:
    No. 11 - you misread me...I'd definitely have Jonny at 10 as first choice for the RWC, unless Flood really finds his mojo. In fact I wish Johnson had tried Jonny-Flood-Tuilagi as 10-12-13 against Ireland, having decided not to bring Flutey, but it's probably way too late for that now, unless he is forced to by circumstance. He should have picked Flutey over Hapless from the beginning...better IC, better cover.
    ---------------

    That is never going to be an option without a 3rd fly-half around to play some supporting minutes.

  • Comment number 28.

    Really got nothing to add, other than that I whole-heartedly agree with the comments on this board (especially #6 - the Holy Hooker) and to say that's nice to see some genuine appreciation (from all nations) for a truly superb and professional player.

  • Comment number 29.

    Wilko's is vital to our chances, no doubt at all.If his fit and at his peak, then play him.
    The team feels and looks far more whole with him starting.The players,the manager and the fans back, fit or not fit.

    I do believe we have the tools to compete, like every team out there with a half decent chance.I believe we should not rely on the forwards too much.we still get turned over too much for my liking.play at a maintainable and varied pace and keeping it soiled through progressive possession with quick bursts at the right time.

    We have the pace and strength now, to dictate those varying paces.

    the rest comes down to confidence and desire.

  • Comment number 30.

    26. At 12:19 6th Sep 2011, VonStoobing wrote:

    Would have thought Bryn would be writing on Welsh ambitions for this World Cup, namely getting out of their group (chances - slim) rather than fluffing an England squad held in high esteem only by the media and the England manager.
    -----------------
    Errrr, Bryn writes about English Rugby, not Welsh, I have no idea if he is welsh or not but in general people write about the subjects they are told to.

  • Comment number 31.

    I just hope England dont try and reduce the sport to the boring level of cricket with their JCB type rugby that bored us all in the last world cup.

    In the 3 knock out games South Africa played in 2007 they scored 9 trys.
    England scored 1.....this was painful to watch.

    Lets hope this year all the new imports can bring a little excitement to the England team!

  • Comment number 32.

    Lets see, Can Wilkinson win you the Rugby world cup. I suppose it all hinges on how many times we will hear the commentators mutter these imortal words "Wilkinson for the drop Kick" I for one have a bet placed that on average it will be 3-4 times a game. Come on England lets see if you actually legitamatly win the Rugby world cup by playing Rugby and not kicking the ball at every oppertunity.

  • Comment number 33.

    There's no denying that Wilkinson is a true legend of the game and any fan of the sport from every nation will admire his training ethics and dedication over the years.

    However, there are others from the UK playing in their fourth World Cup this month: Chris Paterson, cruelly over-looked for the Lions in 2005 is one, and maybe Shane Williams too?

    I think Johnson would be a fool to buy into the English media's view that Pool B will be a walk in the park for England. 3 very physical games await the Red Rose and many forget just how much Andy Robinson knows about the English squad.

  • Comment number 34.

    wonder how Ian Ulster will shape up?

  • Comment number 35.

    I like most other contributers am much more comfortable with JW at 10. An awesome ambassador for the Country and sport.

    Good luck to all the England squad, and all the Home Nations squads come to that. It should be a great tournament.

    One question; As with a few other posters here, I am completely baffled by Mr Hape's involvement with England, especially at the expense of Mr Flutey. I have, however, only seen him at International level (major importance though it is for WC inclusion), does anyone out there follow MJ's thinking and agree with his inclusion, and if so, why? I would be interested to hear his strengths, thanks.

  • Comment number 36.

    #26 - he said if England beat Argentina and emerge as group winners;
    not if England beat Argentina they will be group winners;

    if they don't beat Argentina then they are going to struggle to win the group.

  • Comment number 37.

    I totally believe that with Johnny Wilkinson, its not what he can do which is good though not always brilliant. It is what he can do under pressure. I have more confidence than the fans of any other team there, that if we have one tricky kick that means either expulsion or progress, we have the man to deliver.

  • Comment number 38.

    England will most definately win the group with ease. The only exciting game in that group will be Scotland v Argentina...as the winner of that will go thru.

  • Comment number 39.

    I know the blog is generally about Wilko but there a lot of comments regarding MJ's choices at centre. It's a shame that the names Hape, Flutey, Tuilagi are being banded about rather than homegrown options. England rugby is in danger of going down the road of England cricket with the numbers of non-Englishmen in the side.

  • Comment number 40.

    @#26
    "Anyway, onwards English soldiers! And by English, I mean Tuilagi, Hape, Simpson, Armitage, Hartley, Palmer, Stevens and Corbisiero . . . Jerusalem singing red rose lovers one and all (honourable mentions to Flutey, Fourie and Botha)!! A true rainbow nation."

    Here are a few more names for you: Robinson, Parks,
    Hamilton, Hines, Barclay, Jackson, Morrison. Just a few players and a head coach not born listening to flower of Scotland.

  • Comment number 41.

    #14: Obviously you are a Kiwi, why else would you come onto a BBC rugby forum and give our great 10 a backhanded compliment; i.e. he's not a good player but he's won a lot so commands respect?

    I would say to you that Wilkinson has many facets to his game, including being THE best 10 in the world under pressure. Dan Carter gets all the plaudits globally but on the few occasions I've seen him genuinely under pressure from top quality sides that are competing, he fades. France 2007. Australia recently. Can't say the same about Wilko.

    It remains to be seen whether he can lead us to another final, injuries for one remain a constant menace. But he definitely deserves to. What a professional. The kind of sportsman young people should look up to, I would have him in the England team over Flood any day.

  • Comment number 42.

    "If it wasnt for all his injuries he'd be miles ahead of Dan Carter on the all time points list"
    You may be right, but I don't think we can say Wilko is a better player than Carter. He is definitely our best No. 10 but I think there is a great divide between our best and the SH best players. I honestly don't think Flood or Young would even make it into the XV for Aus, NZ or SA. I am quietly confident we will give a good showing but it all sounds to me more like the media giving too much hype to our squad.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think that what was most obvious against Ireland is that, as in 2003, Wilkinson was pulling the strings in a team that he understood and appreciated.. Some of the comments about his boring play remind me of the -to my mind- ignorant comments that one often heard about Butch Wilkins, another intelligent and skillful person born to have a pivotal and central role. People complained that he just passed the ball from side to side, but the winning pass is really made by the various attacking runs made by the rest of the team. When only one person provides a single option then the result-especially in rugby- is a hospital pass.. But with Andy Sheridan who knows quite a bit about hospitals- even the hospital pass has its merits.

    The signs are especially with the strength of that Tuilagi- Tindall centre pairing, blended with the increasing maturity of the potentially great attackers Foden and Ashton- Wilkinson will often have plenty of options with this squad of players.

    Of course what people tend to forget is just how long it took Sir Clive to evolve his team and, as an attacking force, it almost certainly peaked before the RWC in 2003. In the climb to the status as effectively world number one and the favourite to win the tournament the first name on the team-sheet for some time was Austen Healey who was often given a licence to roam taking advantage of his ability to play all over the pitch and his greater experience of the Union game than for example the exciting "billy whizz" Robinson.

    As England has just won again in Dublin- first time since 2003- it is appropriate to comment that it was in Dublin that Lawrence Dallaglio- originally an England 7- came back from major surgery during which he had built up tremendous upper body strength and bulk. During the Ireland match he wrested the ball from the Irish and in so doing wrested back the England number 8 shirt. Woodward's experiment in throwing together the English open-side wing forwards of the three previous seasons to form a back-row finally paid off, and when England beat Ireland through a drive over try by Back from a line-out Sir Clive celebrated winning "the Leicester way". That winning Jonny drop goal came from Johnson's confidence in calling a move that depended upon the English pack's ability to recycle good ball right in front of the posts.

    But let's face it, knock out games when silly mistakes may cost you the competition, are often going to be cagey affairs..and Wilkinson's cool head is so feared that opposition crowds naturally- as in Dublin when he kicked a penalty dead- try to sow seeds of doubt.. He is no lady but the signs are that he is not for turning.

  • Comment number 44.

    'Flood may yet rediscover his game head, Cipriani may mature into the player we know he can be, and Owen Farrell may even be Wilko II. But meanwhile treasure each England game left in Wliko's locker like the last drop of a special vintage. I don't think we'll fully appreciate him until he's retired.'

    Agreed! Genuinely, listening to Jonny and watching him play makes the hairs on my neck stand up. Such a humble guy with awesome respect for the game, he never gives less than 100% and whilst i've not seen many of his Toulon games, in the games he played for Falcons he was a class apart. Could come back from 6+ months injured and still be the best player on the pitch. Also, i think the players' respect for him is testament to the guy. Great ambassador for world rugby!

    Come on England!!

  • Comment number 45.

    #40 - Robinson is coach, just like Martin Johnson (who played Kiwi representative rugby) is coach of England.

    Barclay, Jackson and Morrison are, er, all Scottish born, schooled and bred. Hamilton's father is Scottish. Hines and Parks, Scottish grandparents . . . but yes, it's flims for them.

    England players with no English blood whatsoever;

    Corbisiero, Stevens, Tuilagi and Hape (honourable mentions to Fourie, Flutey and Botha).

    England players who learned their rugby or were born outside of England;

    Hartley, Simpson, Easter (Springbok grandparent), Shaw, Palmer (Scottish rugby turned him down), Armitage (French age group rugby).

    Rainbow nation!! Let's hope Johnson can have them gel like Pienaar did in '95, eh!

  • Comment number 46.

    hope Ian Ulster does okay

  • Comment number 47.

    #45 Barclay, Jackson, Morrison are born er Hong Kong, Northampton, Hong Kong respectively.
    With this hindsight I am starting to feel a little dubious of how you know the England players you listed bloodlines.

    Besides it matters little to me, if a good player wants to come here and further his career, domestically or internationally then I will welcome them. Perhaps Scotland my be as attractive to others in the future.....

  • Comment number 48.

    Johnny W....legend. He reminds people of the better times in English Rugby when the team actually belonged to England and faught their hearts out for England...nowadays its players with no love for English history...players that were brought up hating England...and are now cashing in and playing for money because some genius somewhere recons there is no home grown talent in England!

    I think the England SuperClub Barbarians will make semi final at least! Maybe final but I cant see them winning.

  • Comment number 49.

    Can't you ever change your wums james as it gets little boring thrid time around.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hey im an England fan...and I always support England...but Im not a fan of this super club...it has no culture or history behind it...its just brought together by money!

  • Comment number 51.

    #32 AngryDave. So was scoring 36 tries in the 2003 tournament not enough to think England won it legitimately then?

  • Comment number 52.

    james, you're Irish or have you decided better for it like Hape?

  • Comment number 53.

    Yeah I know where im from...but I have strong English connections so I would always support them after Ireland, Wales, New Zealand and Scotland.

  • Comment number 54.

    Thanks for all your comments. Keep them coming.

    Re: no 19) smellslikesalmon I think I said after England's opening warm-up win over Wales that Johnson's conservative nature meant Tuilagi was unlikely to start in the big games at the World Cup. But I think the mediocrity of Hape's performance in Cardiff the following week forced a change of mind and persuaded him it was worth trying a different combination against Ireland. It's quite a U-turn (or a welcome lifting of the blinkers and praise-worthy decision, depending on your point of view) from Johnno, who's defended Hape to the hilt. But it would be a major surprise now if he reverted to Hape for the Argentina game. We'll find out early on Thursday in UK when he confirms the team, but he seems to have stumbled onto the 'TnT' combination just in time, if you are an England supporter.


    Re: no 22) magicDarkshadow. Interesting to hear Mike Catt on 5 live Rugby last Thurs talking about Wilko, who he reckons will definitely start, especially if Tuilagi plays. Catt thinks Eng might go for JW and Flood together when they need a second kicking option, for example against a team like France, who tend to target the opposition fly-half.

    Re: no 26) Von Stoobing. I stand by my original statement, but please be reassured that my job is not to 'fluff' up England's chances. When you say 'England haven't beaten Scotland outside of Murrayfield since 2004...', I think you mean that England haven't won at Murrayfield since 2004 (ie they lost in 2006 and 2008, and drew that dismal game in 2010). They haven't played Scotland anywhere else apart from Twickenham, where England have won every time. They have won 8 of their last 11 games with Scotland, plus that one draw, so I don't think it's stretching credibility to say England will start favourites. But I suspect that last pool game will be a very tense affair, and wouldn't be that surprised if Scotland turned England over. But let's see what happens between now and then first. Scotland will have played Argentina the previous Sun for a start.

    Re: no 32) AngryDave - Your idea that somehow you 'legitimately' win the World Cup by scoring lots of tries amuses me. You either win it or you don't. Look at the history. There have been 7 tries scored by the winning sides in the 6 RWC finals, and 3 of those came from NZ in the first one in 87. South Africa didn't score a try in either of their final wins in 1995 or 2007. Do Springboks fans care? The England teams in 2003 and 2007 may not%2

  • Comment number 55.

    @ #26 & 45 VanStoobing

    why is a blog about Jonny Wilkinson becoming an a place of arguement for who plays for which country.

    A few facts for you in that case -
    Shaw - English Parents, Born In Kenya, Schooled in England from 11+, Always Played in England for England age groups.
    Easter - Went to play in south africa whilst on a gap year travelling. Never played any representative rugby for SA. Riddiculous comment.

    Yes some England players are not English born and bred, but then all of the big countries have this problem.
    Is Italy at fault for playing Parrise and Castro as they were born in Argentina?
    Grow up and move on you bitter fool

  • Comment number 56.

    VonStoobing wrote:
    England players with no English blood whatsoever;

    Corbisiero, Stevens, Tuilagi and Hape (honourable mentions to Fourie, Flutey and Botha).

    I take your point, but every case is different.

    Corbisiero has an English mother and has lived in England since age 5.
    While I'm sure he might qualify for Italy or USA, I think he deserves the choice to play for England.
    Tuilagi is another that has grown up through the English rugby school system, despite being a pure bred Samoan.

  • Comment number 57.

    @14 I'm a welshman and JW is therefore a pain in the a**e. But I think you're wrong. England have that 'grind 'em down' kind of game that results in them usually coming away with something from an attack. It's almost like they treat it like the NFL and view the 22 as a 'red zone'! Wilkinson is the best 10 since Barry John imho ;) even with Dan Carter in the picture.

    @32 Webb-Ellis 'picked up the ball and ran'. Then, a bit later, he kicked it over the posts with a half volley, and that was allowed too. Then someone fouled him and he kicked it over the posts from the ground. Guess what, that was also allowed. Get over yourself. England won 2003 fair and square, and my money would be on them getting close again.

  • Comment number 58.

    #54 - Bryn, you stand by your comment? The line "If England overcome Argentina on Saturday and emerge as group winners" is an insult to Scotland as you clearly dismiss our chances. Two minutes of research would show you Scotland beat Argentina in a test series in Argentina last year - the first northern hemisphere to do so.

    Splitting hairs aside, yes, England have not beaten Scotland outside of England in 7 years, so it might not stretch credibility for you to start England as favourites, but it's ignoring indisputable fact that outside of Twickenham, England struggle to beat Scotland. Factor in a pro Scotland crowd at a neutral ground, some rank Auckland weather, two fired up sets of players playing less than total rugby, Andy Robinson's knowledge of the England set up and a series of underwhelming England performances . . . non-English media haven't written Scotland off as you have.

    Score will obviously be 21 - 15 England after that rant.

  • Comment number 59.

    It's great to see so much excitement about the English RWC campaign finally. Thank goodness for Manu and Sir Jonny. Just in time!

    Hope the other home nations do well but I'm nervous for them. Ireland look lost, Wales are in a tough group and Scotland will need to be the Argies which is never easy.

    Should be a great competition.

  • Comment number 60.

    England will not make it past the quarter finals!
    Reason being just look at their last 4 games...they were distroyed by Ireland, then they beat a weak Welsh side in Twick, then they lost to a weak Welsh side then they beat a bad Irish side that was more interested in practising their lineouts then taking points!

    Whether it be France or ABs...England are going home in the Quarter!

  • Comment number 61.

    VonStoobing, England will start favourites though even though Scotland is always tough even at Twickenham. Think you're twisting facts a bit though when you say that England struggle outside of Twickenham rather than England struggle when Scotland are playing at home. When did we last meet at a neutral ground and what was the score?

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    What a joke the web coverage is from the "National" broadcaster. The comment VonStoobing is whats quoted on the Argentina team article to link to this blog.

    The World Cup Team guide continues in the same way;

    England Prospects: Six Nations champions have built momentum over last 18 months. If they negotiate a tricky pool without hiccups, have shown they can beat probable knock-out opponents France and Australia. Third straight final a realistic target, though 2015 may be better bet.

    Argentina Prospects: Not quite as formidable as four years ago but still capable of making life seriously difficult for England and Scotland, who they beat in the quarter-finals in 2007. Encounter with the Scots will probably decide who plays New Zealand in the last eight.

    Scotland Prospects: Desperate to maintain proud record of qualifying for last-eight at every World Cup but will have to beat Argentina - who they lost to in 2007 quarter-finals - or England to do so. Warm-up wins have bolstered confidence and could justify world ranking of seven.

    Re Sco v Eng, so we've established that both sides are strong at home in 6 nations against each other, quell surprise!

    I'd expect the disrespect for Scotland's chances and the arrogance portrayed in the Beeb's coverage so far here to be displayed by the average cue ball down the pub but from "our" boradcaster is beyond belief.

  • Comment number 64.

    @39 - Tuilagi is a homegrown option. His first rugby club was Hinckley U14s.

  • Comment number 65.

    Notts, whats direspectful about it? 6 nations champs have a tricky group and if they get through play one of two probable teams who we've beaten in the recent past. Argies aren't as good as they were 4 years ago.

    Scotland need to beat one of England or Argies. Personally think you will qualify and will beat the Argies and push us hard. But we'll be favourites just because of the 6 nations win if nothing else.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 32 - Rugby is a town in the midlands of England with a very famous school with two similar sports named after it. Rugby FOOTBALL Union is the name of the sport we're discussing. At the end of the day you can use your feet to score points. If you want to watch a sport that soley involves running with the ball and scoring only with your hands, then try handball or netball.

  • Comment number 67.

    @45 - Johnno may have played representative rugby but he is English. Corbisiero parents are actually English. Matt Stevens mother is English. Shaw didn't play rugby until he was 16 at his sixth form in England. Easter learnt his trade in England. Armitage moved to France as a teenager because of his ENGLISH stepfather's job. And learnt his trade here. Simpson (who English grandparents on both sides) has lived here since he was two. Hartley came here at 14. And played most of his rugby here. Palmer learnt his trade here and had a brief spell in NZ. Tuilagi's first rugby club was Hinckley U14s.

    Next you'll bring up the subject of whether black players born and bred in England should be playing because they're not English for you.

  • Comment number 68.

    TROLL ALERT - Only a few weeks ago James Mathew was an Ireland fan. He probably still is, but now he's trying to justify his bigoted and 19th century comments by pretending to support England.

  • Comment number 69.

    LOL...cant a man have an opinion on this forum?
    It seems if anyone saying anything about England (event though its all true) that they get shot down and pounced upon and get called all sorts of things.

    I think the England fans need to open their minds a little and stop being so insular, you live in a multi racial country and you should be proud of it. The England you talk about is long gone, Manu Tualigi is now the face of English rugby and probably will be for the next 10 years...the Johnny Wilkenson days are gone.

    Embrace your new culture!

  • Comment number 70.

    I cant understand some of the hysterical comments from fellow Scots. The blog was about JW who is just a great player and a credit to the game. He may have been a thorn in our sides on many occasions but he also took a fair bit of punishment in a few of the games and never shirked. I hope he has a great WC but with the centres that he has, his options may be limited.

    I don't see why England should be criticised for the adoption of foreign born players. NZ have been selecting the best south pacific islanders (a people clearly destined from birth to be modern rugby players) for years. Everybody else has to do likewise to keep up. We Scots are certainly in no position to complain.

    Yes, we will be big underdogs against England. Too often have I seen the English pack exert a stranglhold over the Scots to think otherwise. MJ will certainly not depart from that winning formula. Having said that, if we beat the old enemy, you had all better switch off your internet for a few weeks as are very bad winners.

    Here is looking forward to a great WC!

    Cheers to all

  • Comment number 71.

    @ ScotIn Nots,

    If nothing else then the world Ranking should indicate that England are currently favourites to beat Scotland. Personally I think it will be only by 5-10 points max. I anticipate a close and hard fought game.

    Now the BBC have suggested that the result will be thus, following the current form book, recent matches between the two nations and world ranking system. Hardley biased journalism, more like accurate analysis of the information to provide an informed predicition.

    And in the true spirit of Rugby, except for when they play England or Georia (My 2nd Team), I will be cheering on the other home nations and/or underdogs. I wish everyone else would do the same.

    Now stop having a persecution complex and just enjoy the rugby, the world cup only happens once every 4 years!

  • Comment number 72.

    Johnny Wilko is the man for the big time! Come on Johnny! Get us to another final..

    Motihur Rahman, Wolverhampton

  • Comment number 73.

    The World Cup win in 2003 will be for me, one of the proudest moments in my life,eightyfive years of them. My hubby and I were living in France at the time. Our sons sent us videos of the game which were our pride and joy. When Martin Johnson led our team out of that tunnel we felt good so, I would dearly love to see his Men of the Rose hold that trophy aloft because I do not know if we will be around when the next W. C. comes around. Swing Low Men of the Rose and show us some magic. J.W. we love you

  • Comment number 74.

    As great a player as Wilkinson was, he is not the same player anymore and as the top sides have found out, his decision making is poor under pressure. If England are relying on him for World Cup success, then they will be rudely disappointed.

  • Comment number 75.

    45 Van Stoobing

    I think that I have you down as one of those respectable Edinburgh folk who are transformed from dull respectability every two years into a bile-fueled mob going bug-eyed and screaming its hate from the Murrayfield terraces at some perfectly pleasant young men dressed in white.

    All this "not born bred in England" stuff sounds more like the confused national identity criteria deployed by the BNP than the opinions of a rational sports fan. As you've been reminded, Scotland have, and have had in the past, plenty of outsiders in their ranks....usually under the highly suspect "Scottish granny" (nearly everybody has one somewhere) rule. Ireland used to be famous for its accommodating selection criteria...owning an Irish Setter could be enough to get you a game at one time.

    Sure, a number of people in the England squad weren't born in England. Some were born abroad because their parents were working abroad (the horror!). One was born in Jersey, a protectorate of the Crown since the 12th Century (such cheating!). Some are of mixed parentage and settled in England as children. Only one or two actually came to England as adults and only one (Flutey) could be identified as a genuine mercenary and he isn't even playing.

    Your argument is characteristically spiteful and more than a bit disingenuous considering the habit of trying to claim just about any notable English-speaking person as "of Scottish descent" (Alex Salmond even congratulated Barack Obama on his Scottish roots!). I was in Edinburgh recently and it was amazing just how Scottish the born and bred Englishwoman J.K. Rowling had become ;-)

    Anyway, this blog is about J.W. who is rightfully now the most successful English fly-half ever and, barring his very long lay-off, would probably be well ahead of Dan Carter in the points stake. Dan Carter by the way is a better all-round 10 but the blog isn't about him. Let's not put to much hype around JW and the England team though. I they play to form they will lose in the Quarter Finals. Given a following wind they might be a losing Semi-Finalist. To expect more is highly unrealistic.

    Still, getting out of the pool stage will be the first hurdle. Argentina are always good and will give it everything. Scotland may perform on the day but barring the game being played in a freezing monsoon I would always fancy England. Scotland have an even worse try-scoring record than England and without the "bug-eyed" crowd on the terrace they may lack a little something.

    Good luck everyone. May the best team on the day win!

  • Comment number 76.

    @69 james, judging from your previous comments, i feel that the tone of that comment was to incite some sort of racial tension and resentment. Firstly, i find this pathetic. I'm English and yes I am proud of our multiculturalism. If Manu qualifies for more than one country then he should (rightfully) be allowed to choose which country he represents. You're either trolling or you're a sad individual who i'm sure your country would be ashamed of.

  • Comment number 77.

    As an afterthought...I wonder if any of the peoples who have come to these shores over the past 40 or so years had decided to make their homes in Scotland in any significant numbers, would some of the posters on this thread have wanted them to play at Murrayfield???

  • Comment number 78.

    Solid fly-halves win world cups - When it gets tight and tense and the AB's bottle it, thats when you need a cool head. It's all about pressure at the end of the day and how you handle it. Who would you want to take that last kick to win the WC?

  • Comment number 79.

    75 - dear boy, it's 'Von' not 'Van'. A very poor start, suggesting lack of attention to detail. And Edinburgh? Please.

    You sound angry, angry and troubled. Is this crisis down to questioning your national identity? Does it relate to Manu Tuilagi's interviews on the morning of the Twickenham Wales game centring on how happy he was with his Samoan tattoo? Who knows and, really, who cares?

    One thing about the 'bug eyed crowd'. England v Scotland on Oct 1 will take place in Auckland. Every neutral person in the venue will be screaming their support for Scotland - bet on that and ask yourself, "Why?? Why do the neutrals support whichever team we're playing??"

    And then re-read your comment, adjust the white vest you're wearing, rub your shaved head and put on the Engerland football match!

  • Comment number 80.

    Vonstoobing



    grow up.


    looking back at your previous comments it has come apparent that you seem to take pleasure in angering the English.

    The fact that none of your comments so far bear the name JONNY WILKINSON proves me right.



    And next time dont leave it for a 16 year old to tell you to get a life.....

  • Comment number 81.

    ......and going back to your jibe about Anglophone being a football fan.........you happen to have more football related comments in your history.....

  • Comment number 82.

    Van scoobydo a Scottish football fan. Priceless! It explains the deep anger and hurt!

  • Comment number 83.

    Von Stoobing is displaying a typical trait that Scots can only focus on hating England than loving their own nation. Hence their 'Nationalism' not 'patriotism' that Alex Salmond is feeding them.

    I see he feels very threatened of any English patriotism and loves like many Scots (Blair, Brown and the rest) to do anything to make sure it never happens!

    Plus its always amusing how all Celts get very twitchy about someone who may not have English blood playing for England,the fact that anyone English can marry someone non-English and produce children (Like Matt Stevens English father marrying his SA Mother , Mike Catt's English Mother and SA father and so on) or anyone can have English ancestry. The idea in their eyes 'that the world hates the English' worries them because someone is breaking that trend marrying someone English and the children having half English blood! Those Full English/Half English/Playing for England are showing loyalty to our cause.

    Plus if the Kiwis want to support Scotland or any team England play fine. We know that we've got their attention and their not focusing on their own game. They could take some tips possibly from Wallaby scarf wearing Scots who were at Twickenham in 91!

    I'd also like to bring forward that in 2003, England play Georgia and SA in Perth, Australia. Well known as a city the Scots conquered and England despite the history and the locals supporting the opposition, the Red Rose didn't do too badly there...

    This World Cup England play first three games in Dunedin. Sound familiar? Quite ironic that under the original schedule, England were booked to play the first two game in Christchurch which was named by the English settlers after the town in the South of England and the Crusaders have the traditonal Knight display before each game reflecting the heritage.

    I'll find it interesting how the world will behave when in England in four years time. You'll have to respect us in our own land.

  • Comment number 84.

    Time for some to take out the arrogance implants and not confuse their distorted view of politics with sport (it shows exactly where your prejudices lie). As far as the schedule goes looks like England get an opportunity to catch Argentina cold and then have a longer rest period than Scotland before meeting the Scots. The All Blacks aren't daft and will look for the return favour come the next World Cup schedule.

    Really enjoying how so many England fans are taking it as a certainty they'll win the group let alone qualify, all based on last years 6 nations tournament, clearly haven't been watching before that.

    Yes England are a quality side and on paper will comfortably win the group, just calm the beans on the...and we'll spank France/Australia next stuff before we've even started.

  • Comment number 85.

    Vic Stroobing,

    Oh I love people such as you!

    (I'm making an assumption here that you're not one of the infinite number of chimpanzees with a typewriter)

    As has been pointed out, the blog is about Wilkinson.

    Not a word from any England fan was directed as a swipe or snide remark about ANY country or player until the Anglo phobic bile was spurted forth from the "usual suspects" sidelining the debate to a slanging match and accusing the English of, "arrogance, snobbery, and all the nonsense we have come to expect. (amazing what chimpanzees can churn out. Respect to them.)

    As has also been pointed out, many rugby playing nations have players who were not born in their country, NZ is often well mentioned, Australia had players who had over 20 international caps for Argentina. One only has to think of nations such as Canada and USA who were founded on migration, but we don’t see people having a go at them.

    No, let’s see this for what it really is;
    People so insecure about their own identity and embarrassed at their lack of achievement that the best they can do is throw barbs and rocks at anything English. Nothing to do with rugby or the topic. But you see, we can take that. For when it starts we just revert to Shakespeare…..and everybody else just hangs their collective heads in defeat. It’s simple…”Once more into the breech dear friends..etc” and that’s what we do. We go again! (And we don’t paint our faces blue and show our backsides. Don’t you just love Mel for giving you that idea?)
    England may not reach the WC finals but there’s a chance with Johnny. Scotland WILL NOT reach the WC finals and there is NO CHANCE! Johnny or no Johnny!

    Before you go looking for a suitable repost to “William”, I’ll dedicate this to you from “Rabby”
    An ode to a louse!

    “Oh my Luve’s like a red, red, rose.”

  • Comment number 86.

    looks to me that Wilko is the best you've got - many strengths especially his kicking - but even after all those years at the top he is less than convincing as truly World class - just compare him with Dan Carter, for example. It seems to me that this is one of the issues England have going into this World Cup, a lot of undoubtedly good, solid, players but not possessing the sheer class of some of the players in the Southern hemisphere sides. Player by player certainly not up to your 2003 winning side, who deserved to win that year because they were the best players in the tournament and played the best rugby. Not obvious to me that this England squad will be able to live up to that.
    In case you're wondering,I'm a Scotsman, and let's be honest, we would take any of your No. 10's, for a long time now it's been a real weakness in our team. Dan Parks as a major cap holder???!!!
    But a little blurb to the blog writer -is it really only England and Argentina in the group? Bit disrespectful, I think! I don't think we will beat England, but all is possible in only one game - but I think we have a fairly good chance against Argentina - but it seems Mr Palmer has already written us off. Anyway here's looking forward to a great few weeks of rugby.

  • Comment number 87.

    @69 James Mathew: Wilkos days are gone? I think you are posting on the wrong blog. Or maybe you just didn't read it. I am sure the general jist was that his days are anything but done!

    @79 Vonstoobing: Maybe the reason people always support the team playing England is that when you are a neutral fan you usually cheer the underdog?

    With Wilko at the helm you cant write off England sneaking past a few "better" teams. Here's hoping anyway!

    Have I read the same artical as others? Scotland have not been disrespected or written off. England should win the group. Highest ranked in the group, and on better form. Then it depends who turns up on the day, Argentina or Scotland!

  • Comment number 88.

    @ 87

    I think its really disappointing when people come on to these blogs just to spark a reaction, they have no interest in making comments on the article, just trying to get in an argument!

    We shouldn't respond to these people, don't give them the satisfaction.

    IMO, i think jonny has proven himself at every stage of his carrer, never hear bad things about him, only good. Seems a genuine bloke and a dedicated athlete. Will go down as one of the best ever!

  • Comment number 89.

    I dont want to give them the satisfaction of thinking that their comments were valid or intelligent! They need to be shot down!

  • Comment number 90.

    We can all see there is no intelligence in what he's saying! I'm sure it would annoy them more if no one responded to them!

    I really want to put in my two pennies worth on the debate about us being a "rainbow Nation" but i don't want to give anyone the satisfaction of thinking they have got under my skin when they really haven't. I just want to express my opinion on it! so I guess I will.....

    IMO....I would be happy for tuilagi to be the new face of English rugby (as soon as he gets a haircut....what is that mullet thing about?!)

    If this is wilko's last world cup then he won't be the face of English rugby forever so why shouldn't tuilaigi be?! He is an English player. Playing for England. I say lets make him captain! Coach! Director of Rugby! Chairman of the RFU....why not?? he is english!! He has chosen his country and he has a right to do that. As do the English men, with scottish grandparents, who do not make it in to the English side and choose to play for scotland. Whats wrong with that?? it only ever seems to be a problem for anyone when they mention the English, never the kiwi's...or the ozzies....or the Yanks....Or the Scots....or the.....well, you get where i'm going!

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm sorry Liverpaul85 I don't get quite where you are going. Please expand.........

    This WC could be the birth of a new hero for english rugby if Tuilagi makes a big impact, but regardless he can never take away Wilkos Legend status!

    To further my annoyance

    @48 + @50: How is this England squad anything to do with money. If the players just cared about money they would ALL be playing club rugby in France. (Not that I am saying all french club players are just about the money, this blog clearly shows wilko is anythin but). If you make a statemnet like that please back it up with some form of credible arguement!

  • Comment number 92.

    @ 91

    Do you really need me to expand? because i really don't want to at this time of the morning!

    Got to agree with you though that if all the players were just after the money they would not be at most of the british teams!! France would definitely be ther place to be!

  • Comment number 93.

    I see football fans find it hard to sport sarcasm!

    This blog has got me thinking.....who is the greatest fly half of all time? Johnny? Carter? Some one else?
    Does Carters all round game beat Johnnys defence and key kicks? If Carter fails to guide NZ to win a WC does that settle it in Johnnys favour?

  • Comment number 94.

    I think that until Carter can drag NZ to winning the world cup then Jonny will always be better! i personally think that as a player Carter is better. Makes better decisions, is better with ball in hand and is as good a kicker as jonny. Just think that Wilko has the mental edge over carter. Can decide the tempo of a game, better defensively and always keeps the scoreboard ticking over.

    IMO carter is the better individual, but wilko is the better team player!

  • Comment number 95.

    @94..........so who IS better. That is blatant fence sitting and a poor answer!

  • Comment number 96.

    First of all I would like to say right now that i'm whole heartedly dismissing the xenophobic clap trap that has been spouted by some on here, if you think that when England do play Scotland the fact that there will be a louder calling for Scottish victory maybe, instead of jumping to the conclusion that every one just loves to hate the English, you could possibly look at the venue with a strong Scottish heritage in Auckland itself (12 suburbs in Auckland have names derived from their Scottish settlers). You're comments are only making me ever more misanthropic so please stop.

    Anyway to the rugby, and to Jonny Wilkinson someone who I admire and respect greatly. I think he is an example of how a professional sportsman should be, constantly trying to improve, always humble and respectful of who he faces, a hell of a lot (if not all) premier league football players, in my opinion, could definitely take a leaf out of JW's booked about how to conduct themselves. I think Jonny can be a talisman for the team, he does offer that calming touch and I think if England do play Tuilagi, then he will need the experience of both Tindall and Wilkinson to guide him in what is the most scrutinous examination a rugby player faces.

    As for the England team as a whole I feel the selection was wrong in places, every team was going to have to make sacrifices, I feel we made ours in the wrong departments. Why would MJ take no more than 2 fly halves, albeit for a bit part 10 who's played a handful of games there, when we all know the attritional nature of a World Cup. Personally I don't think we needed 5 props, Matt Stevens ability to cover both loose and tight would have covered most eventualities. I also can't help but feel moody's is a metaphorical empty seat on the plane, i'm sure he'll add a lot of experience, but how much on the pitch is still uncertain. Hape = dead weight.....Bannahan = not much better. I know this is a moot point and the teams been selected, but why was paul hodgson not considered? Was he released early? Injured? If Johnson is to resort to type and play the forward game then Hodgson would have been perfect for the role, that added with his fantastic defensive covering ability makes him a player I highly rate. But alas as previously stated, a moot point.

    Over all no game in this group will be easy, Argentina and Scotland will be the 2 biggest challenges and I daren't make a prediction. I support a team the same as I would playing for that team, wanting to win every game, I always keep hope in any game, I feel however this team just isn't good enough to lift the Webb Ellis, not this time round any way.

  • Comment number 97.

    I think that the point about only two FH's and five props is valid --Especially with no really obvious utility player like Catt or Austen Healy.

    But presumably this was taken in the light of medical advice. Prop is such an attritional position- hence in part the right to reverse a substitution for this one position. But props are perhaps more likely to pick up minor injuries that will not rule them out of the whole RWC.. As I understand it people like Hodgson will be on standby just in case this happens to Jonny or Flood.. But MJ has clearly decided to take only the people who will all get into a match 22 at some time.

    PS. Re 5 props- Do other people recall that Sheridan first got into England A on tour as a back five utility player.

  • Comment number 98.

    If you look deeper at the squad selection then you can understand that the 3 scrum halves 5 props decision was taken. It's because Care got injured and that Sheridan was coming back from injury. The big question is why not take Flutey instead of Hapless? - Sorry I mean't Hape ;-)

    Banahan is beter than Hape and as they are both similar to Tindall, why not take Flutey to be different and cover more of your bases.

    As will why only 1 specialsit 7 who is not fully fit? Moody is great, but he is not indestructable and we need an out and out 7 against the Southern Hemisphere sides.

    The sad thing is the lack of forsight to even look at Allen, Vesty, Barrit et al or take another 7. We are going to rely on Jonny and Moody staying fit and/or Flood finding form. Now I hope nothing happens to either of them, but if it does the selection policy process will have to be looked at.

  • Comment number 99.

    Australia did rather well out of making a target of Carter during their last encounter with New Zealand, and so I feel it appropriae to recite a quick prayer of thanks for Wilkinson's availability, which might not guarantee that England will win the World Cup but does quash any prior guarantee that it won't, and a longer prayer that he is used wisely and is not encouraged to pretend that he is Carter. He isn't, anyway: on his worst afternoon, he can find touch prtty reliably from his own twenty-five, but I'd not like to see him stood up shallow, routinely framed for nasty people to smash, or crashing into defences like an expendable battering-ram. He's an old-style fly-half who can take a game by the scruff of its neck and choke the life out of it, and that, as many commentators on this blog have observed, is what England needs, not a go-it-alone merchant with a personalised stretcher and resuscitation unit waiting on the touch-line. He happens also to be strong and fit, but he will be a target. If he can keep clear of trouble, that might be the very thing which changes the English centres' hitherto lustreless fortunes!

    Well, not a very long prayer, in the event...

  • Comment number 100.

    Well said 99!

    Wow! just had a Maxwell Smart moment.

 

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