Wilkinson stars in England return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Wilkinson stars in England return

07/08/2011 12:50:13 PM Comments (0)

England rugby hero Jonny Wilkinson gave coach Martin Johnson something to think about ahead of the World Cup when he played a starring role in his side's 23-19 victory over Wales at Twickenham.

It was Wilkinson's first Test start in more than a year and he booted 13 points, including two drop-goals, as he ran the match - providing a well-timed inside pass that allowed debutant centre Manu Tuilagi to score one of the host's two tries.

The 32-year-old Wilkinson, now with French club Toulon, has found himself playing second fiddle to former Newcastle understudy Toby Flood for England lately and hadn't started since playing against Scotland in March 2010.

Johnson, Wilkinson's captain when the champion five-eighth landed the field goal to beat Australia in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney, said it was wrong to read too much into his choice of No.10 ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand which begins next month.

"Jonny doesn't have to prove anything to me. We know he can start a Test match. It's just a question of which way we want to go," said Johnson, ahead of Saturday's return match against Wales in Cardiff.

"There's never been any doubt about Jonny," said the former lock, whose team complete their World Cup preparations with a match against Ireland in Dublin on August 27.

"There's always a 'reason' to start Jonny. He's handled the game very well but we never expect anything less of him," he said.

Bidding to appear in a third straight World Cup final after losing to South Africa in Paris four years ago, Johnson added a hard-fought contest would serve England well when they played Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

"We wanted a proper game, a Test match, it's what you have in the World Cup.

"If you beat teams by 70 points, everyone says you are a superstar. The good thing is there are things to work on for next week.

"Jonny managed it well but we didn't finish it off and, in the end, it was very close," said Johnson of a match where England captain Lewis Moody, who missed the Six Nations, limped off with a knee injury although the flanker later said it was a mere "tweak".

England, who scored their first try through No.8 James Haskell off the back of a cleverly-wheeled scrum, were 13 points in front early in the second half.

But there was a tense finale for a near-capacity crowd of more than 80,000 as Wales outscored England three tries to two. Shane Williams touched down and fellow winger George North collected the second of his two tries.

"I thought at 20-7, we just needed to control the ball but we had five or six turnovers and invited them right back onto us," said Johnson.

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