Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wilkinson's out to Heal the Wounds

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Wilkinson's out to Heal the Wounds

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW BALDOCK

Jonny will captain bruised side

JONNY Wilkinson will throw everything into England's South Africa tour finale today, claiming: "We plan to go out there and stand up to it," writes ANDREW BALDOCK.

England suffered a physical battering against the Springboks in Bloemfontein last Saturday, finding themselves on the receiving end of a record 58-10 defeat.

Wilkinson, promoted to captain for only the second time in his Test career, must somehow inspire England to avoid a repeat result, or worse.

The Newcastle Falcons fly-half has taken over leadership duties from Jason Robinson, whose knee injury has not healed in time, and he will skipper a side showing six changes from last Saturday.

On paper, it is little more than a damage-limitation exercise for England, who are striving to avoid an eighth successive away defeat and seventh in a row on southern hemisphere soil since being crowned 2003 world champions.

Wilkinson said: "It is a massive privilege and honour for me, but it doesn't change my approach to things. It has been an interesting couple of weeks, which makes it even more of a challenge. A lot of players have had to step up to the mark, and everyone knows what is required of them tomorrow.

"There is a genuine belief we are going somewhere, and the feeling is a hugely positive one. This game is a big one to put into practice what we have been doing on the training field and then take it with us into our World Cup training camp. We plan to go out there and stand up to it." England head coach Brian Ashton decided not to name his starting line-up until 24 hours before kick-off, given that resources were stretched due to injuries and a stomach virus that has plagued England since their arrival in South Africa just over a fortnight ago.

Ashton, though, at last received some good news on the illness front when Harlequins' full-back Mike Brown came through a fitness test and training session just two days after England's medical staff ruled him out of contention. …

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