Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Starting Again

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Starting Again

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Tallentire

A resurgent Jonny Wilkinson will move into unfamiliar territory for England tomorrow - playing in back-to-back Test matches.

Wilkinson, injury-free and in blistering form judging by his record-breaking Calcutta Cup performance against Scotland last weekend, has not made successive England appearances since the 2003 victorious World Cup campaign.

And the Newcastle superstar accepts he is effectively starting again at the highest level following more than three years ravaged by repeated injury setbacks.

Wilkinson though, is at least able to adopt a philosophical stance about his prolonged enforced absences from the game as he prepares for tomorrow's Twickenham appointment with RBS 6 Nations Championship opponents Italy.

Wilkinson said: "I think I had one injury that stopped me from playing up to the World Cup final, and in six-and-a-half years of rugby I don't think anyone can match that in terms of luck and good fortune.

"If you speak to some of the young lads now, people like Toby Flood and Mathew Tait, they are 20 or 21 and Mathew has already had a month off here and a month off there - I think it is just the game now.

"Maybe, because I got that six-and-a-half years under my belt, that the balance had to be restored. And I was in a situation where I have had to pay my dues."

Wilkinson can now look back on the injuries that stalled his career and perhaps even afford himself a wry smile As he reflects on the circumstances surrounding his lay-offs.

He added: "To come back from injuries and then to be hit pretty hard in a tackle, like it feels you have been winded, and then to be told you have got to rest for three months because you have got a torn kidney.

"And then to damage your left knee twice and go into a game and tell people your right knee is as strong as it has ever been, and that one goes, it all just feels a bit stupid in the end."

Predictably, Wilkinson remains keen to play down his astounding exploits against Scotland.

His 27-point haul set a new individual Calcutta Cup record, breaking the previous mark of his Newcastle mentor Rob Andrew, while he also moved level with former Wales star Neil Jenkins as the all-time highest Championship scorer. …

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