Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Wilko Is No 1 Says Woody

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Wilko Is No 1 Says Woody

Article excerpt

Lions chief Sir Clive Woodward has defended his decision to hand Jonny Wilkinson fly-half duties in Saturday's second Test against the All Blacks.

It will be Wilkinson's first full-blown Test in his favourite position since the 2003 World Cup final, after spending the last 19 months dogged by injuries.

Wilkinson moves back to number 10 from inside centre, with his selection coming at the expense of a dropped Stephen Jones and an in-form Charlie Hodgson.

Hodgson still cannot find a place in the Lions' Test 22, despite some outstanding performances on tour, notably against Taranaki and Otago.

But Woodward has no doubt about Wilkinson's ability to shine amid the rarefied pressure of a game the Lions must win, otherwise their Test series hopes will vanish without trace.

"If you actually watch what Jonny did last Saturday, he was probably the best back on the field in terms of the Lions," claimed Woodward.

"He is mentally and physically up to it ( I think he is the big-match player. I think Jonny is the man, he has the goalkicking capacity and he is the best goalkicker.

"It is a tough call, and I can understand people would make certain assumptions about me picking him, but I believe in the cold light of day, he is the right guy to play there.

"It is very competitive, but I do believe Wilkinson is the number one fly-half in the party."

Woodward though, hinted that he might have stuck with the Jones/Wilkinson combination at 10 and 12, had captain Brian O'Driscoll not suffered a tour-ending shoulder injury after less than two minutes of the first Test.

"To be fair, if O'Driscoll had not got injured, I was very excited about playing Jones and Wilkinson together," he added.

"We could never see that development last Saturday, because we just got wiped out in the lineout. …

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