Friday, November 6, 2009

Jonny Wilkinson back in Autumn Internation England rugby

Keeping the faith. That’s what counts. Holding true to what matters is the key to a decent and meaningful life. And we can all keep the faith — as long as things go our way.

It’s when things go against us that trouble is doubled. That’s because we not only suffer from bad times, we also question the faith that sustains us. And no matter what form it takes, faith matters.

Jonny Wilkinson plays for England tomorrow. Unbelievable. It seems impossible that he is back again, impossible that he is still around, impossible that he still wants to play rugby, impossible that he still has the faith required to keep on keepin’ on.

He began his career as a man showered with gifts for his sport. He could run and pass. He could kick like an angel and tackle like a devil. He had the gift of temperament, too; never got above himself, always believed that he could improve, had calmness in the heat of battle. Best of all, he could switch in an instant from hot to a cold skill and perform extraordinary feats of dead-eyed penalty-kicking. crowd are rushy to watch him in ground. The sale of england hospitality is increase rather then other rugby events

As a result he transformed every match in which he played. The opposition knew that every transgression would cost them three points and, in this inhibition, Wilkinson’s teams consistently found the space and the freedom to impose dominance. So it was that England won the World Cup in 2003; and it was all far too good to be true.

So Wilkinson was put to the test, as few athletes are. He was visited with an unending plague of injuries. No sooner did he recover from one than he got another. He has spent six years in a dark tunnel of pain and rehab, emerging every now and then for yet another comeback, the inevitable precursor to yet another injury.

Consider them. He fractured a facet in his shoulder during the World Cup of 2003 and had a recurrence a couple of months later. He had an operation and missed the Six Nations Championship of 2004. He had a haematoma in his upper right arm the next autumn that kept him out for six weeks and had to stand down as England captain without ever having led out the boys.

In early 2005 he damaged the same knee twice. In the summer he damaged a shoulder playing for the Lions. He then missed the beginning of the season that year after having an appendix operation. The next January he tore an adductor muscle. He came back and damaged a kidney. In 2007 he missed the first game of the World Cup with an ankle injury. In May 2008 he had shoulder surgery. The next September he dislocated a knee.

But now he is back, playing for Toulon, and all reports say that he is better than ever.

This is one of the few bits of good news for England going into three testing autumn internationals. Jonny is back. Jonny is sound again. Jonny has not given up. Somehow, impossibly, unbelievably, Jonny has kept the faith.

Wilkinson is sport’s Job. Job, too, had all the gifts. He was a perfect, upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil. But, as Satan said to God — and here I paraphrase — so what? He has it easy. Why shouldn’t he keep the faith? What’s to stop him?

So God decided to test this most excellent and decent of men. It was a kind of bet with the Devil; as Virginia Woolf said, God doesn’t come out of this well. Job loses his wealth, his family and his health.

But he refused to curse God. This is the ultimate story of faith, and the keeping of it.

Wilkinson, in a secular life and following a calling set about with trivialities, has nevertheless established a meaningful story. He has taken pain and disappointment as his lot and, instead of giving up, has marched on with his faith intact.

He hasn’t become a drinker or a waster. He hasn’t become a professional celeb. He hasn’t grown bitter. He hasn’t lost patience. He has never introduced subtle little cheats into his many and various rehab programmes. He hasn’t got fed up with rugby. He still believes in sport.

No matter how many times we have wagged our heads and said that we would never see Jonny in an England shirt again, he has just carried on working, never once, it seems, doubting that it was worth doing. Perhaps he reached the point at which the goal of fitness no longer mattered. Work was an end in itself, keeping the faith was more important than any reward.

As Wilkinson worked, so he also thought and read. He found some kind of helpful explanation for what had happened to him in Buddhism and its doctrines of acceptance. He had kept the faith through times when faith itself seemed — at least to anybody else — not so much an impossibility as an absurdity.

It may only be sport, but there is still something high, lonely and even noble about this tale. Wilkinson, as he jogs on to the pitch at Twickenham tomorrow, will be for us all a little emblem of hope.

There aren’t many like him. And that must worry the entire sport of rugby union, which is going through the most extraordinary escalation of injuries. As players become bigger, fitter, stronger and more ruthless, so injuries come at an ever more frightening rate.

England are playing something like a third XV, Wilkinson apart. Australia are much the same. The game is becoming unsustainable, not least because there aren’t many people like Wilkinson in rugby, or anywhere else for that matter.

Many great athletes have suffered injuries and illness and somehow come through them: Sir Steve Redgrave, Dame Kelly Holmes, Denise Lewis, Niki Lauda, Lance Armstrong. But no one has suffered the relentless series of setbacks that Wilkinson has been through: one after another after another in an endless, soul-wearying succession.

All the same, it is something with which we can all identify. In sport alone we are used to setback and disappointment mixed with rare and glorious moments of triumph. Everyone who loves sport tastes more disappointment than glory. We just stick at it and hope for better times. When the England cricket team went through their decade of gloom, we carried on watching and hoping. We kept the faith, just as we keep the faith as the England rugby team attempt to rebuild under Martin Johnson.

In our own lives, we have all known times that test us, that tempt us to give up, to blame others, to abandon the things that matter. Some people go through extreme and terrible experiences, others have better luck. But we all know about hard times.

Wilkinson has become a modern myth of patience in adversity. He may be only a sportsman, his arena of trouble may be only disappointment and groin strains rather than the loss of everything dear. Of course it’s only sport. But Wilkinson never gave up his faith in sport. Sport has thrown a series of terrible things at him, but Wilkinson is back.

Welcome him, for he is the man who never cursed sport. you can see him live in groun. hospitality is available for this events

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