Monday, February 1, 2010

SIX NATIONS 2010: Jonny Wilkinson back in the firing line

For now, Jonny Wilkinson has put aside his contented new life on the Cote d'Azur. The joys of swimming in the sea and cycling in the mountains, freediving and al fresco dining - and, of course, the challenge of French club rugby - are temporarily on hold.

He has swapped it all for his designated place at the eye of a storm with England, in Surrey, at Twickenham and beyond in this RBS Six Nations.

The 30-year-old will attempt to galvanise England's misfiring attacking game armed with the shield of healthy perspective. After the missing years of savage injuries, from 2003 to 2009, when his future was repeatedly called into question, the former Newcastle fly-half is simply revelling in a long spell of unbroken rugby.

A few unflattering reviews cannot diminish his upbeat mood, not when he admits that, had circumstances been different, his playing days could have been over already.

When Wilkinson lined up for England against Australia on November 6, it was his first Test for 18 months and the first time manager Martin Johnson had been able to select his former team-mate.

That day, he performed admirably in a losing cause, but the next two matches - against Argentina and New Zealand - saw him struggle to impose himself and inspire a side weighed down by caution.

This was not the commanding Jonny of old and the upshot was an overwhelmingly negative reaction which stung him. More than two months on, he insists he took all the comments in his stride - emphasising that criticism had increasingly come with the territory in his England career.

'It didn't really have an impact on me,' he said. 'It doesn't affect my life whether someone decides that I am the best thing since sliced bread or that I am rubbish. All I can do is try my best for the team.

'My career has been dominated by talk of injuries, but in recent times with England I have experienced people questioning me regularly. The first time was during the 2007 Six Nations, then there were more questions in the 2008 Six Nations.

'I wouldn't want to be in an England team if I didn't deserve to be. But I will keep going while I can do a job and, at the moment, I feel relatively happy about the way I am playing.'

The most persistent barb directed at Wilkinson in November was that he played too deep behind the gain line. Since then, England's attack coach Brian Smith has made it plain that he wants the first receiver to play flat and the man in possession of the No 10 shirt is willing to oblige, if it helps the team function better.

England V Wales Hospitality

Scotland V England Hospitality

Ireland V Italy Hospitality

France V Italy Hospitality

Six Nations Hospitality

1 comment:

  1. The most prestigious and awesome events in Rugby are 6 Nations hospitality games. Never miss to watch it live.