Wilkinson condemns "naive" England team mates

LONDON Thu Nov 10, 2011 12:39pm GMT

England's Jonny Wilkinson calls out to a teammate during their Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against France at Eden Park in Auckland October 8, 2011. REUTERS/Nigel Marple

England's Jonny Wilkinson calls out to a teammate during their Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against France at Eden Park in Auckland October 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Nigel Marple

Related Topics

LONDON (Reuters) - Jonny Wilkinson has labelled his England team mates as naive to think their World Cup drinking session would go unreported and believes some of them arrived at the tournament in the wrong frame of mind.

England's 2003 World Cup-winning flyhalf, famously dedicated to his sole life aim of becoming the best rugby player in the world, made the observations in his autobiography "Jonny," which was published on Thursday.

In the book Wilkinson said he was ready to walk away from England last year after losing his starting berth to Toby Flood and launched a withering attack on the balls used in the last World Cup and the tournament organisers who defended them.

Wilkinson also chronicled his early days in the sport, saying he used to be literally sick with worry before every primary school match.

Wilkinson, 32, is the opposite of the stereotypical beer-drinking, song-singing rugby player of yore and says himself that he takes his dedication to abstinence and training to levels that are detrimental to his physical and mental well-being.

"When I was 20-years-old, with England, I would go out after some games so I don't have a view on other people. It works for some, not for others," Wilkinson wrote when examining the fallout of the now infamous night out in Queenstown, which led to pictures of stand-in captain Mike Tindall and others looking the worse for wear during "Mad Midget Weekender."

"What I cannot understand is the naivety of people going out to the extent that they did and it not crossing their minds it would find its way back to the media. With a camera on pretty much every phone these days, how could it not come back?

"What is required is individual responsibility and not Johnno (manager Martin Johnson) at his wit's end."

Wilkinson said there had been a squad meeting following the incident but he felt unable to contribute.

"My own position is so far on the obsessive side of preparation and professionalism that I fear my point of view is not going to be shared by anyone," he said.

LACKING RESPECT

He was more forthright when it came to playing matters after England lurched through the group phase before losing to France in the quarter-finals last month.

Rested for the pool victory over Georgia, he said he was disappointed that individuals were playing for themselves, attempting to showboat and lacking respect for their opponents.

He was so annoyed that he decided, unusually, to voice his concerns at a team meeting.

What Wilkinson could do little about, however, was his poor kicking. Having missed an unprecedented five successive penalties in the opening win over Argentina he remained wayward throughout the tournament.

At the time he refused to blame the Gilbert ball, apart from suggesting that the match balls were more difficult to control than those used in practice.

In the book, however, he has unleashed his frustration, explaining how the numbered match balls each had such differing characteristics that he and fellow flyhalf Toby Flood wrote notes for each one corresponding to their flight path.

"The problem is that when you feel like you're smashing it and the feedback is telling you that everything is great, yet the ball is swinging both ways and missing one way and then the other, you're left with a very difficult situation," he said.

"From then on it's a joke.

"The organisers claim that all the balls are the same, but they're not. If they were they wouldn't be doing this. My feeling is that it's just horribly unprofessional and an extremely bitter pill to swallow that, at the biggest tournament in the sport, we're having to deal with this."

Wilkinson might not have been in New Zealand at all after reaching such a low ebb last year that he seriously considered retiring from international rugby and concentrating his efforts on his French club Toulon.

Ahead of a meeting with Johnson before the 2010 November internationals, Wilkinson thought: "with England my confidence has just disappeared and I'm not surprised the team respond better with Toby Flood at number 10."

Wilkinson said he considered the matter for several weeks before deciding he did not want to bow out with his reputation at such a low point.

Typically, he threw himself into the World Cup preparation with such gusto that he topped the entire squad by a distance in their regular fitness tests and re-established himself as first-choice flyhalf.

Wilkinson was candid about the dark days he experienced during his repeated injury absences and said that even at the pinnacle of his career, when he landed the last-minute drop goal to win the 2003 World Cup, he struggled to enjoy the moment.

"Here I am, celebrating the achievement of my life's goals and yet I can't stop thinking it can only be downhill from here," he wrote of that Sydney night.

Those goals were set when Wilkinson first started playing mini-rugby in southern England, when he began honing the talents that helped him develop into one of the best-tackling backs the game has seen.

"When I see those guys I don't just want to tackle them, I want to knock them into the next field and I want to shock those parents watching from the sidelines," he said of an under-eights match.

(Editing by Mark Meadows)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.