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Wilkinson was running on borrowed time

Six Nations England
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So England coach Brian Ashton has thought the unthinkable and dropped the talismanic Jonny Wilkinson from the team to face Ireland.

Twenty-year-old wonder kid Danny Cipriani, back in the squad after his detention for talking after lights out, has been handed the fly-half shirt.

Wilkinsonís dire display in the defeat against Scotland on Saturday had led to a host of observers to call for his head.

The fact Wilkinson is the only player to be axed comes as a major surprise, and dropping him purely on form for the first time in his England career cannot have been easy for Ashton.

The plus column in the ledger of England's biggest rugby star is substantial: To whit, one World Cup (priceless); one Grand Slam, 1099 international points (a record), 69 England caps and a nationís eternal gratitude.

The debit column is less tangible, containing items such as loss of form, inability to effectively utilise possession and a kicking game out of hand - his place-kicking in the Six Nations has been solid - which has fallen apart.

England were shocking at Murrayfield and although Wilkinson was not the only player to fail in difficult conditions on a foul day, the criticism he attracted was not gratuitous.

Wilikinsonís place in English rugby legend is rightly untouchable, but his continuing presence rightly is not.

Since bursting back onto the scene with a truly remarkable performance against Scotland in 2007, he has performed at or near the high standards he demands from himself only sporadically.

Yes, his nerveless place-kicking took England all the way to a second consecutive World Cup final.

But his inability to spark Englandís backline was a concern all through the tournament and was exposed as the defending champions fell against South Africa at the final hurdle.

Post-France the erratic form has continued and Saturdayís sorry show was the final straw for many observers, including Ashton.

The physical battering Wilkinson has taken over the years has clearly, for this observer at least, diminished his ability to play the game at the very highest level.

His kicking from hand is struggling for length as much as direction, and that must be due to physical factors.

That knowledge has to be weighing on him and contributing to his wider problems with decision making during matches.

Wilkinson is as honest a sportsman as they come, never gives less than 100% and has touched heights few can imagine.

Taking the decision to drop him must have felt a bit like showing that nasty man with the gun which bush Bambi was cowering behind.

Whether he deserves to be the only player axed after the Murrayfield disaster is a moot point.

But the fact is Wilkinson has not been performing, England have been suffering and Ashton needed to bite the bullet.

Latest 10 comments

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posted Mar 12, 2008

Why is everyone so bothered tha Wilko is not gonna be in the team, if i was the coach i would have replaced a lot more players. There are barly any international games where the coach can try out new players and new tactics. With nothing really to play for against Ireland why not try all the fringe players out see what they can do, its good for england and good for the future.

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posted Mar 12, 2008

The real truth about JW is that he has always needed a real tectical brain alongside e.g. Catt and Greenwood.Much as we love, admire and want him as our son-in-law, we have to admit that he has never bossed a game and when that quality was needed against Wales and Scotland it clearly didn't exist. As regards BA, he is a coach - a friend to he players, not a manager, and it shows. As at the World Cup, prior to the mutiny, there is no plan. are you out there Jake White?

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posted Mar 12, 2008

Zorrowilliams: Look at some of the staff in your back room set up at the moment. Shaun Edwards is about as real and as English as you get! It just happens that the RFU let him slip; due entirely to their incompetence!!!

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comment by wardler (U2132364)

posted Mar 13, 2008

Ashton has got to go...a nice bloke, innovative coach but no leader.

If Wilkinson played that badly, then surely he should have been dropped from the 22, sent back to Newcastle / the Saxons to practice his kicking...not so long ago his game management was revelled, I have no doubt he can re-discover his genius. As for Danny Cipriani, he has been awesome for Wasps (and woeful at times as well) and is an exciting prospect. However, thanks to Ashton's half baked selection he is on a hiding to nothing...if the pack play as badly as last week he will struggle, anyone would.

It really concerns me why Lewsey and Worsley have not been brought in to add some grit and why Danny Hipkiss (power, pace and skill) has been overlooked all season....bewildering.

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posted Mar 13, 2008

To "nomore gareth jenkins" aka keith France to beat Wales by 30 points on Saturday. England will miss Wilkinson on Saturday.

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posted Mar 13, 2008

I can see the logic behind the Wilkinson exclusion, but what baffles me is the fact that Cipriani has replaced him?
The Irish back row will be after Cipriani and one good hit will take him out of his stride,therefore making him ineffective on Saturday. I agree with a previous poster who would like to include Ryan Lamb instead, harder all together and can take the hits.

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posted Mar 13, 2008

Firstly, dropping wilkinson is a ridiculous decision. It displays once again Ashton is incapable of leading: he has woeful man-management skills(look at Cipriani-gate last week), is far too influenced by popular opinion, and is willing to sacrifice any long term game plan he might have had at the merest hint of failure.

Its no wonder Wilkinson struggles to get an England back line firing, we havent had a scrum half worth mentioning since Dawson. Remeber Shaun Perry? Wigglesworth is no better- he takes an age to get the ball away and provides zero impetus. You cannot play rugby without a nine who knows what he is doing.

Can we find Redden an English grandmother please?

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posted Mar 13, 2008

Does Mr Ashton only read the Sunday Times and watch Sky (a common denominator) for team selection advice? I await to see how young Danny performs with the same team around him. I suspect this may be the master plan - if he does well.............spend the rest of your Saturday nights in Soho Danny - you'll not be dropped for that anymore - Barnesy will take care of that!!

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posted Mar 13, 2008

Good post Zorrowilliams and good luck on Saturday

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posted Mar 14, 2008

What I cant quite understand is why Ashton has dropped an English hero and kept an inept Samoan.

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