UNDER-FIRE England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson is refusing to let personal criticism reduce him to a “quivering wreck” after being named in an unchanged team for Saturday’s showdown with Ireland.
Wilkinson was singled out for condemnation after an uncharacteristically sloppy kicking performance in last week’s victory over Italy. Matt Dawson, his half-back partner during the 2003 World Cup triumph, was among the critics, casting doubt on the Toulon star’s play-making ability.
But England manager Martin Johnson has ignored the clamour to hand Toby Flood the No10 shirt, and Wilkinson has vowed to shrug off the flak and repay his boss with total commitment on the pitch.
“You play for a team cause. If you took everything personally we’d all be quivering wrecks on the floor. You have to get on,” said the 30-year-old.
“You put everything into everything you do and that has to be enough. Give everything to every decision, every play to get the best result. You can’t ask for any more.
“Everything traces back to the No10 because the call stops there. It doesn’t make for comfortable living all the time but the pressure I put myself under is more than enough, believe me.”
Wilkinson’s patchy form was highlighted by Flood’s match-winning turn for Leicester at the weekend, but, despite slight injury concerns over the record points scorer, Johnson has backed the former Newcastle player to deliver.
“If Toby had to play 10 we wouldn’t miss a beat, but it is a bit simplistic to say Jonny is a kicking 10 and Toby is a running 10,” he said. “Our failure to put away [in Italy], was that because of Jonny? No, he’s part of the team like everyone else is. Jonny does make decisions. He has played 75 Tests, I don’t think there’s an issue.”
Referring to Dawson’s claim that he, Will Greenwood and Lawrence Dallaglio used to make most of England’s plays, Johnson quipped: “I didn’t make any decisions either – it was all Matt Dawson.”
ENGLAND | STARTING XV TO PLAY IRELAND
15 D Armitage (London Irish); 14 M Cueto (Sale Sharks), 13 M Tait (Sale Sharks),
12 R Flutey (Brive), 11 U Monye (Harlequins);
10 J Wilkinson (Toulon), 9 D Care (Harlequins);
1 T Payne (Wasps), 2 D Hartley (Northampton), 3 D Cole (Leicester), 4 S Shaw (Wasps),
5 S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), 6 J Haskell (Stade Francais), 7 L Moody (Leicester),
8 N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: L Mears (Bath), D Wilson (Bath), L Deacon (Leicester),
J Worsley (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton)