Wilkinson to shoulder England burden - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wilkinson to shoulder England burden

30/10/2009 12:18:41 PM Comments (0)

Jonny Wilkinson insists he can cope with the expectation that will be heaped on him when he makes his much-hyped return to the England team for the November internationals.

The 30-year-old five-eighth's last appearance in an England shirt came in March 2008 - he has since been struck down with a dislocated kneecap, the latest in a string of setbacks to have blighted his career since kicking his country to World Cup glory in 2003.

Now fully fit and in great form for Toulon, the southern French club he joined in pre-season, Wilkinson is back in the England squad and will be a certain starter against Australia on Saturday week in the first of three November Tests.

The former Newcastle Falcons star will be seen by England fans as the saviour the side needs as they look to regain their status as one of the world's leading teams in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup.

And Wilkinson feels he can handle the pressure that will undoubtedly be piled on him.

"We've had this before and it seemed to end rather miserably!," he joked at England's training base here on Thursday.

"It's a funny story but it doesn't affect me and my decision-making. You can do what you can before the game to make sure you go and hit it with absolutely everything you've got.

"I'm going to make sure I'm raring to go, I'm prepared as I can ever be and I don't leave anything back."

It is ironic that while England are experiencing one of their worst injury crises of recent times - they currently have almost a full team of possible starters on the sidelines - Wilkinson is arguably in the shape of his life.

His catalogue of injuries and ailments since 2003 often made him wonder if he would ever be in the position he now finds himself in, and it allows him to have a wry smile at England's current position.

"It's been a funny six years and it does allow me a little bit of perspective on how unlucky some guys have been," he said.

"For all the great things you do and the ways you try to look out for these things, it's a contact sport and these things happen.

"I haven't necessarily done anything different than I was doing before apart from being at a different club and playing rugby there."

Wilkinson is seen as one of rugby's most professional and dedicated players but, given his wretched run of injuries, he admits his approach has changed.

"I don't like to leave anything in the changing room for a rainy day; I don't like to save stuff for the next week," he added.

"But at the same time, my definition of giving it everything I've got on the field has changed a little bit.

"My more younger outlook was running headlong into everything," said the world record international points scorer.

"Now, I want to use the same energy but by the end of the game I want to be maybe making sure I'm in the right position and doing the right things.

"If you are out there consciously thinking, 'I'm not going to go into that' or 'I'll leave that tackle to someone else', I think you're falling into a dangerous area."

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