Rugby Union: Wilkinson Signs Up to Repay Newcastle Faith

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Jonny Wilkinson would be the first to admit that in pure value- for- money terms he has been about as much use as a chocolate teapot over the last 18 months. So what have Newcastle done? Signed him up for another three years at the knockdown price of pounds 750,000, give or take a gold ingot or two.

Wilkinson, just about fit enough to start the last Premiership game of the season having missed great swathes of the preceding 21 matches, finally put pen to paper yesterday after a prolonged round of negotiations.

'By going for a three-year contract this time, I think I've given a good indication to everyone of how happy I am at Kingston Park,' said England's captain in absentia. 'It's a privilege to be a part of this club. The supporters have been incredible during the times when I've been down " times that have been the lowest of my entire life. I couldn't have asked for more than they've given me, and it's now up to me to pay them back.

'These people are always there for us " to be totally blunt about it, they pay our wages " so it's for myself and the rest of the players to somehow give them something in return.

'At times this season we haven't done that. We need to be more consistent and show these people who support us every weekend just what they mean to us personally and to the club in general.'

Wilkinson will face London Irish tomorrow, having made what he hopes is a complete recovery from the knee problems he first suffered during a Heineken Cup pool match against Perpignan in January.

He has not played in front of his home crowd since scoring the winning try against Sale in a Premiership game almost four months ago, but his second-half performance at Northampton in the last round of League fixtures convinced him that his many and varied trials and tribulations were behind him at last.

'I haven't felt this fit for a long, long time,' Wilkinson asserted. …