Magazine article The Spectator

Jonny, Still the Perfect 10

Magazine article The Spectator

Jonny, Still the Perfect 10

Article excerpt

David Beckham's elegant but pointless cameo role for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League defeat to Barcelona the other day got plenty of play in the British press, despite his ineffectiveness.

We love Becks - who doesn't? - but he's no longer the player he was, let alone the one he was hyped up to be.

He will always have a role, whether it's as a football ambassador, or simply as an agreeable figure who gets wheeled out to front anything from marital stability to handing out the canapes at a G8 summit. Becks himself has no doubt about his ability to contribute on the pitch, it's just the rest of us, and he has never really paid too much attention to what we think.

A few hundred miles away, down on the Cote d'Azur, there is another English sporting icon with a better CV than Becks who is every bit his equal in the looks stakes. But he's so riddled with self-doubt that he has been canvassing the opinion of team-mates to see if he has still 'got it'. Jonny Wilkinson has clearly still 'got it' - plenty of it - and the evidence is clear: he plays in the key position for the best club in Europe's premier rugby union league, the Top 14 in France. So effective is Jonny that two of world rugby's leading fly-halves. Frederic Michalak of France and the Aussie Matt Giteau, have to play out of position at Toulon.

It is 15 years since Jonny became the youngest Englishman to represent his country for 71 years and ten since he won the World Cup with a swing of his boot in Sydney. After that he got injured every time he played and a new set of tyros appeared in the England number 10 shirt to reduce Jonny to sepia on a clubhouse wall. Think back to 2008 and that famous photo taken at Twickenham of Jonny, on as substitute, being bossed about by England's starting fly half, Danny Cipriani, as Ireland were thumped 33-10.

You could say that Cipriani never really trained on, though Kelly Brook must offer some solace: a look at Sale Sharks' league position and Danny's cap collection being all the evidence you need. …

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