Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ashton Is Poised to Issue Flood Warning

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ashton Is Poised to Issue Flood Warning

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

ENGLAND are facing the nightmare prospect of having to tackle Ireland tomorrow without the service of Jonny Wilkinson.

The outside-half 's boot has been responsible for 42 of their 62 points in wins over Scotland and Italy in this season's Six Nations Championship.

Unfortunately, those matches - his first for his country since the World Cup Final in 2003 - have resulted in bumps, bruises and a tight hamstring.

Wilkinson took part in training at Bath University on Wednesday and spoke enthusiastically about facing the Irish.

However, 24 hours later, he was complaining of soreness in his leg and he missed the final session before the squad flew to Dublin.

He is to undergo a fitness test on his hamstring at Croke Park today but time is short and the halfback's chances of playing appear less than favourable.

Wilkinson is likely to be replaced in the starting XV by his Newcastle teammate Toby Flood. But even the thought Wilkinson's absence has exposed the soft underbelly of the England squad and coach Brian Ashton could turn to Andy Farrell, the former Great Britain rugby league captain, as first-choice kicker.

That, at least, would remove a huge responsibility from the shoulders of Flood in front of a very vocal 82,000 crowd.

There is better news on the Jason Robinson-front. The Sale wing, who has scored three of England's five tries so far, is hopeful of recovering from the neck injury he suffered in training earlier this week.

But if he does fail a fitness test today, Newcastle's Mathew Tait will play left wing.

All the uncertainty has had a knock-on effect. Mike Catt, the London Irish utility back, had just completed his captain's run with the club yesterday when Ashton left a message on the club's answer phone.

Brian Smith, the club's director of rugby, listened to the recording and then called Catt into his office telling him to ring Ashton, whose voice had betrayed the sense of concern being felt within the England squad. …

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