Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Jonny Blow Opens Gate for Flood

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Jonny Blow Opens Gate for Flood

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Newcastle Falcons fitness coach Steve Black has urged new England coach Brian Ashton not to rush fly-half Jonny Wilkinson back into action.

And assuming Ashton takes his advice, Toby Flood could be in line for a first England start against Scotland in February.

Wilkinson has been plagued by a succession of injuries since kicking England to a dramatic victory in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia. He has not played international rugby since and has made just three appearances for Newcastle this season.

And although the 27-year-old is making good progress after lacerating a kidney against Bristol in November, Black believes the February 3 Calcutta Cup clash will come too soon.

"I don't think Jonny will be ready for the Scotland game," he cautioned, despite Wilkinson's inclusion in a 33-man training squad this week. "It would be foolhardy to rush him back.

"He needs time to adjust to the playing environment. We need to get him back on to the field for Newcastle." Despite his words of caution, Black reassured Falcons fans the fly-half is making good progress. Wilkinson is taking part in fitness and skills sessions at Kingston Park but has not yet done any full-contact work.

"I work one on one with Jonny every day and he's determined, ambitious and in great nick," said Black, who has worked with the player since Wilkinson was 17. "He was very sore and uncomfortable following the injury but the soreness has subsided. A fit Jonny Wilkinson is a major bonus to the England squad."

Wilkinson picked up his latest injury in his comeback game after knee ligament damage. He is also suffered a succession of neck and shoulder problems and a bicep injury. But Black believes it is unfair that Wilkinson has been labelled injury-prone since his World Cup heroics.

"This latest setback was a pure freak injury," he said. …

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