Wilkinson backs chiefs’ show of faith in Lancaster

Ross McLean
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Wilkinson is an ambassador for All Schools
WORLD Cup winners Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Leonard have dismissed accusations that the additional insurance afforded by head coach Stuart Lancaster’s bumper new contract will see a culture of complacency permeate the England camp.

Lancaster and his assistants Graham Rowntree, Mike Catt and Andy Farrell have all signed six-year deals – the longest ever awarded by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) – which cover the next two World Cups.

But Wilkinson – speaking at an event to promote the RFU’s All Schools initiative yesterday – is convinced Lancaster and his staff are far too professional to be suckered into a false sense of security simply as a result of new-found contractual strength.

“Whether or not you’re going to get paid for six years, whether or not you can buy that house or assure your kids can go to a certain school, these are all important things,” Wilkinson told City A.M.

“But at the same time these guys know what rugby is about and its values. Every game matters and the next is the biggest and as soon as you lose that inside yourself it’s no longer about staying in contract.

“These guys for me are the right guys, they have a great deal of pride in their performance and I very much doubt it is about counting figures and financial reward.”

Leonard, meanwhile, believes a primary reason for the RFU moving early to secure the futures of the England coaching set-up is to ward off the potential threat of poaching should England enjoy a successful World Cup.

“I can see what people are saying, is it the right time to do it but when is the right time? The reality is there probably never is a right time,” said Leonard, who joined fellow 2003 World Cup winner Wilkinson at Streatham and Croydon RUFC.

“People might have wanted the deal to wait until after the World Cup. But if we happen to win it and then want to retain their services but someone comes in with a better offer and they go, then which would have been the better way of doing it?”

For more information on All Schools visit www.englandrugby.com/allschools