Jonathan Peter Wilkinson is synonymous with English Rugby and Rugby as a whole. The word ‘unique’ must be used sparingly but Jonny Wilkinson OBE qualifies for that description with a kaleidoscope of national and world records that dovetail with his triumphant injury time dropped goal that secured the 20-17 win over Australia in the 2003 RWC final in Sydney.
However those days of glory are long gone for Mr. Wilkinson. The man who has replaced the once talisman of England is his former protégé Toby Flood. Wilkinson in his usual measured attitude that has lead him to converting over 1,100 points for England in his international career, insists that he has accepted his new position in the team. However one suspects Jonny’s passion for the game of Rugby has left himself dissatisfied warming the bench, even if that is for his country! Injury has plagued Jonny throughout his career; this is a man who started his career aged 18 years and 314 days. He would have played many more tests if it hadn’t been for the intervention of 13 different injuries, including a dislocated left knee cap in October 2008 that ruled him out for eight months and a shoulder injury prompted his absence from the 2010 Investec Internationals.
However we get the sense that in this new role on the bench, Jonny is being invigorated as a result to take from any experiences he gets in real match time and is thriving on it as a result.
“It is a massive thing to get the opportunity to go on the field and do something like kicking that late penalty” (versus Wales).
However one of the major factors that Wilkinson has to come to terms with is the repercussions of his transfer to French giants Toulon. He will be allowed to travel to the World Cup later this year; fitness permitting as always with our somewhat fragile talisman Mr Wilkinson. With England introducing a new policy meaning players playing at domestic clubs are the only ones eligible to be selected for England, Wilkinson has to decide whether he will return home or end his international career on a ‘missed conversion’ so to speak.
However Wilkinson’s career has been revived with his recent move to Toulon. Also being the principled ‘machine’ like kicker we know he is, he is not likely to turn his back on this renewed form on the whim of a bench warming position for England.
“I can’t impress upon you enough what a change to my life living in France has made,” Wilkinson said. Wilkinson has been making in and out cameo performances for over seven years now. That must have a marked effect on a player who when on the top of his game is no doubt one of the best if not the best in the world.
Wilkinson’s place in the game has been ensured by a long and until recently record setting career. His aggressive tackling and metronomic kicking have led him to be seen as a scourge by all international teams.
“It would mean a huge amount to me to play in a fourth World Cup. I’m in it for the long run and I will give it all I’ve got and nothing less.”
This statement conveys however a burning desire to reach the top of his game again and reclaim the number 10 shirt for England, who knows we might see a World Cup winning drop goal in New Zealand at Eden Park on the 23rd October? Stranger things have happened…